Libraries reopen with limited services

  • Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Caution tape is placed over tables, chairs and bookshelves at Hilo Public Library on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Although the inside is closed, people can still return and check out books or movies online.

  • Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Frances Asperilla puts plastic over new books that will be available at Hilo Public Library on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. All library employees have returned to work to keep the library functioning in its phased reopening.

  • Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Jennifer Hamamoto hands a book to a woman picking up from Hilo Public Library on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Library cardholders can schedule appointments to pick up specific books from a table at the front door.

The Hawaii State Library System started phased reopenings for libraries throughout the state this month.

Hilo Public Library opened for book returns and book pickups at the beginning of this month. Library cardholders can use the library’s website or call to make an appointment to check out a book or movie.


Online services also changed. People can now get assistance with library card accounts, make payments for fines and fees, schedule appointments and search for available books.

If a cardholder cannot schedule an appointment via the phone or online, they can walk up to the entrance for assistance during the Hilo library’s new hours from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Everyone is really excited to come back to our new system,” said librarian Gretchen Andrews. “People have been holding onto books and waiting for us to open up again to get something new.”

Some cardholders had to keep overdue books for months while the library was closed, but all fines and fees have been waved during the pandemic.

After books are returned, they are set in a room to be quarantined for three days before they are available for the next person.

“We handle the books with gloves and make sure they are completely quarantined for three days,” Andrews said. “Once they haven’t been touched for three days, they can be checked out again.”

All of Hilo Public Library’s employees have been working on the phased reopening since they returned in May.

Last Wednesday, the library began offering computer time to cardholders who reserved a spot online or via the phone.

There are 10 computers available during the library’s new hours, and cardholders are allowed one hour per day.

Employees disinfect all the computers between use and people using the computers are required to wear masks.

“Everything is running smoothly, and we’re happy to be back,” Andrews said. “So many people have brought us food and little gifts to just thank us for opening again.”

The next phase for Hilo Public Library is to roll out Wi-Fi that will be available to people with personal technology to use outside the building.

The Hawaii State Public Library System also is having a summer reading challenge for children from June 15-Aug. 31. All books on the reading list will be available for free on an app called Beanstack, which can be used on mobile devices or on a computer.


Anyone interested in more information regarding all Hawaii library branches can visit

Email Kelsey Walling at

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