Thursday, September 10, 2020

What's in the box?

There was great excitement in the Neal household this morning: our library books were delivered!

Stick & Fetch Investigate: Barking Up the Wrong Tree, audio book; Magnolia Moon; Elle the Thumbelina Fairy; Tom Gates Super Good Skills (Almost), audio book; Maths in 30 Seconds; Kidz Bop 2019 CD; and Pokémon guides X2

Here, we have been under varying but strict stages of lockdown since March. My kids, in Grades 6 and 3, have been schooled remotely from home for most of that time (they only went back on-site briefly for a couple of weeks in June). The library has been closed, and I felt sorry for my little bookworms as they read and re-read and re-read the books we have at home.

But our library has done everything they could to try and keep their service going during this insane year. During the first stage of lockdown, they organised a click-and-collect service. We already had the option to reserve books via the website and pick them up from a dedicated shelf (perfect for busy parents); now the librarians simply checked the books out to us, bagged them, and popped them outside the library door for collection. But most amazingly, the library made the decision early on to turn off fines for late returns. The policy is now to return books only when we are able and it is safe to do so. Renewal limits have also been lifted (previously items could be renewed twice for three weeks at a time), unless another member has reserved the book.

With stricter lockdown stages we were no longer allowed to make trips to "unnecessary" places like libraries, so ours switched from click-and-collect to click-and-have-delivered. We reserve the books we would like, and when they become available they are checked out to us, boxed up, and we can request a free home delivery (one per family per month).

The librarians also try to fill up the box with books, so they ask what our author and book preferences and favourites are and look at our check-out history to work out what they can add as their random surprise picks. I think this is the best part - we now have two new-to-us series that we're into thanks to our librarian's cleverly targeted selection (Vet Cadets and The Hounds of Penhallow Hall). 
Our librarian's clever selection for us based on our preferences and check-out history
The delivery system also allows for us to leave a box of returns outside our front door on delivery day, which is collected by the delivery person.

Our returns for this round
I'm so glad we live in a place with such a fantastic library system - and also in a community where people can be trusted with an honour system for borrowing and returning books and no one would dream of interfering with packages meant for other people's collection. Although I've already written notes and emails, I can't wait for the chance to thank our wonderful librarians in person.

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Convoluted Key (first in the Draconian Rules series), the picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or check our her programme for new writers at Fully Booked.

Photo by Amanda Meryle Photography


  1. This is amazing service for the community! We went through a long cycle of closing and then curbside only, but now we can go into the library (a few at a time) and actual browse for a bit. They're always cleaning when I'm there, and we all wear masks, so it feels safe.

    1. It's so good. They really have done everything they can to keep the library service going.

  2. Love this post, Elle. When my first three kids were young the library was our favorite place. I'd pack them all up at least twice a week for a visit.

    My love of libraries started when I was a kid and would go to the one nearby almost every day in the summer. That love affair has never stopped, even tho I don't visit as often as I used to.

    1. Thanks Maryann. I loved the library too as a child - I remember my mother marching me into the head-librarian's office to lament the fact that I was sometimes racing through my allocated three books before we even reached home. So the librarian extended my number of library cards to five, and pointed out that I could also use a couple of my parents' cards (I ended up using almost all of theirs and my grandmother's). She also recommended that I start browsing in the adults' section if the books in the children's section were too basic for me.

  3. I love businesses (libraries, etc.) that find alternate ways of meeting customers' needs in times when "business as usual" is restricted. I also love that your children are such avid bookworms. As a youngster, so was I. Now I have two great-grandchildren who are devoted readers. Good job, Mom, for instilling in your little ones a passion for books.

    1. I can't even imagine not loving to read :-D Really glad it's something I can share with my children.


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