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Bow Valley libraries adjust service during global pandemic

“We’re really excited to be able to bring the collection back into the hands of our community in a safe and thoughtful way.” – Sarah McCormack, Library Director for the Banff Public Library.
New and Notable2
The 'New and Notable' section at the Banff Public Library, now available for delivery or pick-up for ID No. 9 library cardholders. SUBMITTED

BOW VALLEY – As Alberta enters its sixth week of isolation practices during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Bow Valley libraries are finding ways to ensure patrons are not left on the shelf.

One of the latest initiatives includes the recent announcement of pick-up and home delivery services by the Banff Public Library, whereby patrons can borrow up to five library items at a time with loan periods set to three weeks upon check-out.

“We’re really excited to be able to bring the collection back into the hands of our community in a safe and thoughtful way,” Sarah McCormack, library director for the Banff Public Library said.

In addition to the digital resources offered, including eBooks, eAudiobooks, newspapers, magazines, movies, music, online course and school support, Banff and Lake Louise library cardholders, including newbies, will now have options for good old paperbacks. 

“Part of the reason we wanted to do this is to do with mental health – to have an escape or learn a new hobby or just interact with our collection the way they [normally] would. It has a significant benefit to our community,” McCormack said. 

On the Banff Public Library website, it notes health professionals from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently stated that paper-based items, such as books, are not considered to be viable transmission routes for COVID-19. However, they recommend that public libraries quarantine recently returned books and other library items such as CDs and DVDs for at least 24 hours. Banff Public Library said it has been quarantining all returned items since March 16. 

The director is also encouraging new membership. Banff, Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Saskatchewan River Crossing residents can apply for a free membership online. But as of now, delivery services are only being offered within the Banff townsite.

“Right now we are trying to just respond to needs as we see them,” McCormack said.

In the neighbouring municipality, Canmore Library Director Michelle Preston said March 16 marked a significant change in the daily operations. 

“At the direction of municipal and provincial governments and by order of Alberta’s chief medical health officer, we closed our physical space to the public, and several core services including interlibrary loans, the lending of physical items, and in-house programming temporarily ceased,” Preston wrote in an email. 

“In order to protect our library staff and the public from the risk of transmission, limit possible spreading of the virus and ensuring we can continue critical aspects of library service by phone and online, we are not offering any in-person or physical service including curbside or home delivery at this time.”

Preston said fortunately, the dedicated and creative staff are still working hard behind the scenes to work on the website, promote and assist with access to online services, speaking with community partners, participating in web-based training, collection maintenance, ordering new materials and planning and implementing a range of online programming. 

Canmore Library staff are also registering and renewing library cards, to ensure patrons will have access to the online library 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And to help Canmorites avoid any unnecessary stress, Canmore Library, following suit with the Banff Public Library, has also put due dates and items on hold to automatically extend until May 15, and further if necessary, while waiving overdue fines and extending any memberships that have expired or will be expiring in the next month. 

"We miss the daily interactions with our patrons and sincerely look forward to seeing you all again when we are able to resume in-house library services,” Preston said. “Until then, know that the Canmore Library is here for you through our staff, online programs, e-resources, website and social media channels.”

For more information on how to get a membership or access resources, for Canmore residents visit or for ID No. 9 residents visit

Follow's COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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