Although it is temporarily closed through December due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Socorro Public Library offers outside Wi-Fi access.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain photo

Magdalena’s public library is open for limited curbside services while the Socorro Public Library is closed to patrons through December. The changes come as the state eases restrictions after a two week COVID-19 “reset.”

Is the library an essential service? That’s not clear, said Chelsea Lyons, Socorro librarian. “The library is not specifically addressed in the state public health orders. We’re thinking it’s more in line to wait and see if things calm down,” Lyons said, referring to the double-digit COVID infection rate the city is currently seeing.

The library closed in March, reopened June 1 under pandemic protocols and closed with the state reset in mid-November.

While the gates remain locked, people can still access the free wi-fi around the building. In fact, she said, a student last semester had parked his camper outside the library to finish his course work.

In Magdalena, Librarian Ivy Stover is working by herself, driving up each day from Socorro. The library closed in April, opened in June and closed again in mid-November. Now she is offering curbside services.

“People will bring me papers, I will get copies made and take them out. If a person knows what book they want, I can check it out and bring out to them,” she said.

Library patrons also can access the internet with the library’s wi-fi which reaches out to the parking lot. “We want to be open but we want to be safe,” Stover said.

She believes the current public health order would allow the library to open, but wants to wait until the county’s COVID-19 infection rate declines.

“Maybe not out of the red zone, but pinkish,” she said, noting the guidelines for changing status are strict.

The library was able to hand out grab bags for village youngsters at Halloween with crafts, books and other things. Normally, Santa would come to the library with books for children. “We’re looking into how to do that this year.”

Meanwhile, in Socorro, all the full-time library staff has kept working.

“We’ve a lot of time to plan activities. And we’ve caught up on a lot of paperwork,” Lyons said. That includes Carol Hale, and others, working to bring the library’s catalog on line.

“It’s good to stay busy, because the staff misses the patrons perhaps as much as the patrons miss going to the library,” Lyons said. When it reopened in June, “we were all in tears, patrons and staff. We have a lot of people utilize our resources like the computers; we also have avid readers who come in and browse the shelves.”

In fact, over 7,000 hold active library cards: 5,283 in the city, with another 1,285 county residents; other New Mexico residents and out-of-state patrons make up the remainder, many accessing the library from their association with birding, Lyons said.

Online services are available through their website adobelibrary. org including Zunio for e-magazines and Libby for e-books.

She said the staff currently is working on tutorial videos to help with on-line programs and for use with the online catalog.

Prior to the November closing, Maribel Tarango, assistant children’s librarian, had made “grab and go” craft bags for the children who attended story hour. That will continue once the library reopens, Lyons said.

Lyons is hopeful that the library can work with Tax Help New Mexico to come up with a workable system under the health mandate. The program for low-income citizens, which normally uses the library meeting room, was cut short when the pandemic struck in March.

“We’re working with Mary Nutt, pushing around some ideas,” Lyons said. “We don’t want that resource to die. Perhaps it will be a drive-up curbside service.”

The Friends of the Library has been basically shut down during the pandemic. There are no books sales which have provided funds for special library activities.

The library currently is not accepting used books, nor are there any free books outside. However, people are welcome to give donations through the Friends of the Library.