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As Utahns stay home in an effort to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, reading offers a way to experience the world while being cut off from it.
“It’s a great thing for your mind and it also, I think, will help with some of the anxiety people are feeling if they can … get lost in a book,” said Murray Library Director Kim Fong.
Reading “can provide solace, it can provide escape, or it can provide education. And it can also provide distractions. … I think we all need each of those four things right now,” said book buyer Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works.
“It opens a world at a time when we’re in danger of seeing your world narrowing and shutting down,” she said.
But libraries have closed throughout Utah and bookstores are closing or reducing hours. Although they’ve been taking precautions to keep customers safe, many local bookstores are losing income — and hoping for support from readers. (Scroll down for their suggested reading lists.)
“We operate on such a thin margin that it doesn’t take much for us to go out of business,” said Anne Holman, co-owner of The King’s English Bookshop.
Here’s how libraries and bookstores have been serving customers differently during COVID-19, and how to help stores stay afloat — although some options may change again, following Gov. Gary Herbert’s Friday directive to Utahns to stay home as much as possible. His directive goes into effect for businesses on Monday. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has made similar restrictions mandatory in the capital city.
Ken Sanders Rare Books
Ken Sanders, owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books, said his store in downtown Salt Lake City is now closed to the public, but it offers the option to pick up orders at the door, or arrange free deliveries in the Salt Lake Valley or free shipping online.
While none of his staff has become ill, he asked them to generally quarantine at home after an employee who worked as recently as Monday and Tuesday said her brother tested positive for COVID-19. Those who are working come in one at a time, he said.
Bookseller Ashley Morris said online orders of books and gift certificates are helping to keep the store afloat. Books on the shop’s website are 20% off right now with the coupon code: HOME.
The store also is offering a 25% bonus on gift certificate purchases. “The amount of gift card orders we’ve received over the last few days has filled us with gratitude for our many friends and supporters in the community,” said Morris.
Sanders said he would also be open to accepting donations for the store. “I am currently paying all employee salaries, whether they are able to work or not. This won’t be sustainable without funds coming in,” he said.
He feels the future of his store is uncertain. Sanders applied for a city loan, but several days later, he hadn’t heard anything. “Without help with payroll, rent and debt repayment, we won’t last very long,” he said.
The King’s English Bookshop
The King’s English Bookshop is closed to the public, but has stayed stayed open for curbside pickup and home delivery. On Saturday, it moved to selling books only online.
“We will continue to take your orders and ship them out at no charge,” the store send in a message to customers Saturday. “We hope you continue to think of us. Truly, we will never quit thinking of you.”
The store has been offering virtual story times at 11 a.m. for kids every day. At 2 p.m. daily, there are chapter book story times for adults. These sessions can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
Weller Book Works
Weller Book Works has reduced its hours and stepped up its cleaning. The store is practicing social distancing inside, and offering curbside pickup or free delivery within the area.
Catherine Weller said customers can buy a book or gift certificate online if they don’t want to come into the store, at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Weller Book Works also sells e-books and audio books.
She said there is an option to donate on the store’s website, but she would rather sell someone a book. “We think that right now, in this time when people are concerned and afraid and at home a lot, reading is really important,” she said.
Golden Braid Books
Golden Braid Books in Salt Lake City also has reduced its hours, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m., three hours earlier than usual. It is offering curbside deliveries and accepts payment over the phone. Staff are keeping 6 feet apart, sanitizing the shop and making sure there are fewer than 10 people inside at a time.
Part-owner Pamela Brown said Golden Braid can ship gift cards to friends, a way to use her store to do something nice for friends when you can’t spend time together.
Pioneer Book in Provo is encouraging customers to order from home by text (to 801-709-0868) and to take advantage of its free curbside delivery.
The store has provided a link for customers to browse the used books in stock and call with the ID numbers of the ones they want. Call the store when you arrive and staff will run your order out to you. Or books can be shipped, for a fee, via the U.S. Postal Service.
If you want to help Pioneer Book weather the storm, you can donate unwanted books or buy a gift certificate. If you like audiobooks, Libro.fm has two offers with 100% of proceeds benefiting the store. Start with account code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW and get two audiobooks for the price of one, or buy a $15 gift membership for yourself or a friend.
Murray’s library is sanitizing all on-hold items. To get them, borrowers drive to the library, call the staff and a librarian puts the items in a bag outside the door. It also has online story times on its website and social media, and it’s promoting e-books and online resources.
Provo’s library also is holding online story times and is starting a spring reading program with reading challenges for kids.
Orem’s library is participating in a statewide initiative called Cabin Fever Storytime to provide online story time options. The children’s staff is recording story times, book talks and puppet shows.
The library also has a Kid Zone area on its website where parents and children can explore services, early literacy, the library catalog, e-learning, databases and downloadable options.
“This resource is very valuable to parents who are now looking to provide even more learning and entertainment options than usual,” said Library Director Charlene Crozier.
Reference staff at Orem’s library also are helping some community members learn how to access digital resources for the first time, and helping some get a library card over the phone. They have been working to provide as much access and help as possible to people using databases and online resources such as Tutor.com, Mango Languages and TumbleBooks.
Some of these vendors have opened their products for access without a library card or provided a temporary access code.
Salt Lake County Libraries are focusing on online resources right now, too. In addition to checking out e-books, you can use a variety of online tools like lynda.com or creativebug.com with a library card. The library is also promoting e-magazines, which people can read online with their library cards through an app called Flipster.
Sara Neal, communications manager for the system, said many parents are focused on supplementing their children’s education. Older students have access to a homework helper called Brainfuse, and for younger children, the library has an online story time every weekday on Facebook.
Salt Lake City Public Library announced Friday that Main Library and all branches will remain closed indefinitely and all in-library programs and events have been canceled through Sept. 1. It is asking that any materials that are already checked out not be returned until further notice. No late fees will be charged.
Meanwhile, the library is expanding its collection of digital materials, including e-books, audiobooks, digital magazines, music, movies, research databases and learning platforms.
WHAT TO READ AT HOME
Utah booksellers and librarians offered suggestions for books to read with increased time at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ken Sanders Rare Books
• “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr
• “The Power of One,” by Bryce Courtenay
• Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
For younger readers:
• “The Princess and Curdie,” by George MacDonald
• “The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek,” by Evelyn Sibley Lampman
• The Goblin books by Ul de Rico
• Byrd Baylor’s picture books
Weller Book Works
• “Great Influenza,” by John M. Barry
• “The Mirror Thief,” by Martin Seay
• “The Brothers Karamazov,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
• “The Master and Margarita,” by Mikhail Bulgakov
• “The Mirror and the Light,” by Hilary Mantel
Golden Braid Books
• “Educated,” by Tara Westover
• “Erosion,” by Terry Tempest Williams
• “The Sun and Her Flowers,” by Rupi Kaur
• “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama
• “The Rise of Wolf Eight: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog,” by Rick McIntyre
• “Humble Pie,” by Gordon Ramsay
• “Hold On, But Don’t Hold Still: Hope and Humor from My Seriously Flawed Life,” by Kristina Kuzmic
• “The Splendid and the Vile,” by Erik Larson
King’s English Bookshop
• “Deacon King Kong,” by James McBride
• “Apeirogon,” by Colum McCann
• “Norwegian by Night,” by Derek B. Miller
• “American by Day,” by Derek B. Miller
Salt Lake County Library
For adults and those who like fiction:
• “Long Bright River,” by Liz Moore
• “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line,” by Deepa Anappara
For those who like nonfiction:
• “Race of Aces,” by John R. Bruning
• “The Kingdom of Back,” by Marie Lu
• “Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom,” by Louis Sachar
SALT LAKE COUNTY LIBRARY: WHAT READERS WANT
The top five digital books to be requested in Salt Lake County’s library system so far in 2020:
• “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens
• “Girl, Wash Your Face,” by Rachel Hollis
• “Lean on Me,” by Pat Simmons
• “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” by J.K. Rowling
• “Educated,” by Tara Westover
The three fiction books that the highest number of people are waiting to check out online are:
• “The Giver of Stars,” by Jojo Moyes
• “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng
• “American Dirt,” by Jeanine Cummins