Find Your Books: Downtown Library, Union Avenue Books Open With New Twists (Plus a Weekend Recommendation!

Lawson McGhee Library, 500 West Church Avenue, Knoxville, February 2020
Lawson McGhee Library, 500 West Church Avenue, Knoxville, February 2020

Today the Lawson McGhee Library is open for business downtown, as well as seven other of the nineteen Knox County Public Library locations across the county. Each branch and the downtown library will open up to the same schedule they had prior to the recent closure. 102 of the library’s furloughed employees returned to their jobs on Tuesday for intensive training and preparation for the reopening. Plans call for returning the remaining employees and opening additional library branches soon.

As you might expect, a visit to your favorite library will not be the same as the last time you visited. You’ll enter a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized environment and you’ll notice the same plexiglass partitions that have sprung up everywhere from convenience stores to the post office. “Sneeze shields” will be present at any service counter in which the public and employees interact.

Seating has been arranged and you can likely repeat in your sleep how afar apart it will be. Computers, which have become ubiquitous at public libraries will not be available for use at this time, but wifi is available inside each library branch. All materials will be isolated for 72 hours after their return to ensure any possible virus transmission from surfaces would be removed. There will be no storytimes or other meetings until further notice.

Mary Pom Claiborne and Erin Nguyen, Children’s Room, Lawson McGhee Library, 500 West Church Avenue, Knoxville, February 2020

Each Library has been fully sanitized and equipped with plexiglass sneeze shields at service counters. Available seating will be arranged to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

Library locations to reopen include:

  • Lawson McGhee Library, 500 W. Church Avenue
  • Burlington Branch Library, 4614 Asheville Highway
  • Carter Branch Library, 9036 Asheville Highway
  • Cedar Bluff Branch Library, 9045 Cross Park Drive
  • Farragut Branch Library, 417 Campbell Station Road
  • Fountain City Branch Library, 5300 Stanton Road
  • Powell Branch Library, 330 W. Emory Road
  • Howard Pinkston Branch Library, 4500 Chapman Highway

I spoke with Mary Pom Claiborne, Director of Marketing, Development and Public Communications regarding the reopening and the weeks of closure. She acknowledged the task is daunting when you consider about 2.7 million items circulate each year and that most of them are still physical. The nine weeks of closure gave them the chance to clean and to plan and she said that has been helpful.

The closure time also attracted more patrons and encouraged others to explore digital collections to a greater extent. Over 1,000 new digital cards were issued and digital circulations went up by about 30,000 circulations over the same period as last year. More people accessed the training videos, Rosetta Stone and data bases which were opened up to online users.

I asked her if she was concerned about a mountain of books and DVDs pouring in and overwhelming staff, she said, no, that a good many materials have been returned in the last nine weeks and no physical materials have gone out. As they come in, gloved staff will place them in meeting rooms and other spots designated for quarantine. She said there are no over due fees at this point, so people don’t need to feel rushed to return checked-out items.

You’ll find the staff wearing masks and patrons will be encouraged to do so, but it will not be required. You’ll find signs at the door and throughout the library encouraging the five core behaviors; Stay home if ill, wash hands frequently, maintain six feet distance from others, wear a mask when you can’t do that, and (they will) clean surfaces often. As is always the case – but it’s more important than before – patrons are asked to not re-shelve books. Any books pulled from the shelves will be quarantined.

Union Avenue Books, Post Expansion, 517 Union Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Union Avenue Books Opens with Twists:

Union Avenue Books has remained closed to in-store customers a bit longer than required to make sure they were able to open safely. They have continued throughout the closure period and have offered curbside pickup, mail and delivery of books. It’s not a perfect solution for an independent book store whose customers relish browsing, but it kept the books flowing.

Starting June 1st (Monday), they will be open for in-store shopping, but by appointment only in order to control the flow of customers and to protect staff. There just isn’t enough space to safely bring in the masses, just yet. They’ve also made adjustments to hours. Curbside, shipping and delivery will continue within a five mile radius. Curbside will be available Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Appointment hours will be Monday through Friday from noon to 5 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

For the browsing-by-appointment, appointments last for 30 minutes and no more than five people will be admitted for each 30 minute time slot. Masks are mandatory for entrance and are available for purchase and gloves will be provided. A $10 deposit is required to book a session, but it will be applied to your purchase. You can book your shopping session here.


Fun Benefit to Join for the Weekend:

Del Shores, the writer of Sordid Lives, A Very Sordid Wedding, Sordid Lives, the television series, and more will gather many of the stars from the franchise for a fun reading of the script and much more. The purpose is to raise funds for 21 different community theatres across the country. Our very own Theatre Knoxville Downtown will be the beneficiary of 1/21 of all the donations received. Let’s help them raise $21 million!

If you don’t know the series, you have time to stream it on Netflix (the first one) and Amazon Prime (the sequel). They are hilarious and have gained new traction with the explosion of popularity of Leslie Jordan’s (Brother Boy in the series) Instagram posts during the pandemic (our daily laugh). Also featured from the series will be Knoxville’s own Dale Dickey, as well as Beau Bridges and an appearance by Olivia Newton John.

I spoke to Bonny Pendleton, Director of the Theatre Knoxville Downtown who said it was their connection with Del Shores which led to the inclusion of Theatre Knoxville Downtown. They have hosted him for his one man show and they’d joined his Del Shores Foundation as a participating theatre to give LGBTQ writers a better shot at having their plays produced.

She was talking with Del on the phone recently and the two discussed the difficult current plight of their theatre and others. He called her a few days later and said that had given him the idea of producing this show and auction (items and costumes from the various productions!) to raise money for the theatres associated with his foundation.

The show will air on FB Live and on Youtube. You can get all the details here. Have a bunch of laughs, and donate or purchase items to support your local community theatre.


Congratulations to Darren Ellis and Laura Cruz, our winners in the most recent gift card giveaway sponsored by City People. This will be the last gift card giveaway in the series, but I’m looking at a different kind of giveaway, soon.

Happy Weekend, everybody!

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