By Paula Ebben

ABINGTON (CBS) – Bring on the books! Public libraries in Massachusetts are reopening, in phases. They’re starting by collecting all the books and other materials that haven’t been returned during the quarantine, and then, as we saw Tuesday in Abington, instead of browsing the shelves, readers are going curbside.

That’s right, library lovers in Abington can finally get their hands on an honest to goodness book. “I ran out of all the books I had in my house, so it was like, I can’t wait until the library opens,” said Ellen as she sat in her car after a pickup.

In Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, libraries can start doing curbside pickups. In Abington that means people connect online or by phone and request library material. “We will pull the books for them and check them out. And call and give them a pickup window, and they can come and get them so that everybody is social distanced and safe,” said Deborah Grimmett, the Abington library’s Director.

A customer picks up books outside Abington Public Library (WBZ-TV)

“My eight-year-old is ecstatic because he’s read the series ‘A Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ at least seven times in the last 60 days,” said Mary Basham as she picked up books for her family.

A small table outside the library building is now the new circulation desk as staff bring out books for one person at a time. Something else that’s different, you won’t be able to get books from other libraries just yet. “People are limited to the books we have in our building, but we have 66,000 things so I think we’ll be OK,” Grimmett said with a chuckle.

And as books are returned they’ll be quarantined. “We’re doing 72 hours to be on the safe side,” she added.

And one by one, patrons at any of the nearly 400 public libraries in Mass. are able to go beyond digital borrowing and feel and hear the pages as they turn and the stories unfold. “I think it’s a sign of maybe a slow return to life as we knew it,” Grimmett said.

Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan allows for limited access inside public libraries, but that will depend on whether the spread of the virus continues to moderate.

Paula Ebben

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