Amid coronavirus disruptions countless public libraries, much like schools, government offices and businesses across the country, have closed their doors to the general public for the foreseeable future in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Residents in Dickinson have been without the ability to peruse the great paperback selection at the Dickinson Area Public Library, but a new program launching will introduce books by mail for all library card holders.

“Libraries have been talking around the state and country trying to figure out how to solve the problem of people who can’t come in, what can we do for them from here?” Rita Ennen, director of Dickinson Area Public Library, said. “We have a lot of online things and have added to those, but what about those people that don’t want an e-book or e-audio and want the physical item?”

Ennen continued, “Particularly we’ve had requests on behalf of some of our elderly patrons who are used to coming in and getting the books and now here they find themselves at home and unable to go anywhere.”

To fill the need in a way that was safe for staff and patrons, while still providing services for library card holders, was a tricky problem to solve — but one that Ennen said resulted in the new program.

“With our new program, patrons can now just go onto our online catalogue and at the top of the page there is a place to place items on hold,” she said. “The program also allows patrons to fill out a form and say, ‘what I really like is mysteries’ and the more information they provide the more we can match them to a new book suited to their liking. They can also call us, Monday through Thursday, all day.”

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Residents who do not currently have a library card are not being left in the cold as the Dickinson Area public Library has begun issuing cards to new patrons over the phone and through their website. The cards expire six months from the date of registration and restrict items to three at a time.

“This is to coincide with the limit of what we will be mailing out,” Ennen said. “New patrons will have full access to our electronic content too.”

While fines will not accumulate on items while the library is closed to the public, fines will begin to apply to late items following reopening of the building to the general public.

Cards may also be obtained for other family members as long as they are at least four years old. When the DAPL reopens, each adult patron will be expected to come in person to verify their identity and place of residence and those of any children they obtained library cards for. Spouses cannot verify information for each other, they must each verify their own information in person.

To obtain your new patron card, call 701-456-7700 or use the online registration process

In an effort to ensure public safety, Ennen shared the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s acknowledgement that books are considered a low risk cross contamination item.

“This is something that is good to get out to the public, because our process is something that has taken contamination into consideration for a long time now,” Ennen said. “Everything that comes back gets wiped down with rubbing alcohol and cloth to clean, disinfect and sanitize the items. That has been our process for a long, long time.”

Ennen added, “I would recommend people visit our online library page because there is a lot that is there from online books, some videos, audiobooks and even graphic novels. People with kids that are working from home, we’ve put out all that we can for resources all in one place.”

Those interested in participating in the new program can contact the library, or visit http://www.dickinsonlibrary.org/