Submitted by Timberland Regional Library
“Access for all” is one of the values that Timberland Regional Library lists as part of the mission and vision statement on its website, and they are showing their commitment to that value with expanded access hours for patrons.
Timberland Regional Library (TRL) is evolving to meet the needs of the communities it serves by offering expanded access hours (EAH), which allows library patrons to use TRL resources outside of standard operating hours.
“As an organization committed to providing access to library services, we recognize that visiting a public library during regularly staffed hours is not always an option for many people,” said Naselle Timberland Library Manager Michelle Zilli, one of the leads on the EAH project.
Offering EAH will positively affect access to library resources, especially in rural areas, Zilli said. She noted that smaller rural libraries often have fewer staff hours.
“Our library facilities have great resources and as a public library system we want patrons to have access to those as much as possible,” Zilli said. “By offering EAH, patrons will be able to use any of those resources when it is convenient for them.”
Anyone 18 years or older with a TRL library card can sign up for EAH during regular staffed library hours.
“It’s very easy,” Zilli said. “You just have a conversation with library staff, and we will walk you through the agreement.”
Once a patron is approved for EAH and signs the agreement, they are given a key card or key fob and library staff show them how to use it to access the library. Staff also offer patrons a tour of library amenities.
“We just want to make sure before they have their first EAH visit that they know how to use all of the technology available in the branch, such as self-checkout, how to log in to a computer, how to use the copier/fax machine and so forth,” Zilli said. “Ultimately, we want them to have a really successful visit during unstaffed hours.”
Library staff also go over safety and security information such as emergency exits, how to use the phones, what to do if the power goes out, and how to handle other types of emergencies, Zilli said.
McCleary Timberland Library was the pilot for the project. Because of its success, TRL expanded EAH to another five locations. Six more locations will be set up with EAH in the coming months.
Libraries that currently offer EAH are Hoodsport, McCleary, Naselle, Ocean Park, and Packwood Timberland Libraries.
“So far, patrons who are using EAH are happy with it,” Zilli said.
Zilli said that’s because more open hours make it convenient for patrons to visit the library more often, particularly patrons who historically have had obstacles to visiting during regularly staffed hours.
While each adult in a family must be approved for EAH, parents and guardians who are approved can bring in their own minor children, Zilli said.
“I think it extends opportunities for families, and all patrons, to use the library,” Zilli said.
One thing Zilli wanted to note was that when a patron is approved for EAH, their access goes beyond their home library.
“Once a patron has an EAH key card or fob, they can use it in any of the libraries with expanded access hours,” Zilli said.
TRL serves 29 library locations across five counties. Visit the Timberland Regional Library website for more information on locations and EAH availability.