McDonald’s Happy Meal? Check. Prescription from CVS? Check. The newest John Grisham novel? Check.
Jefferson-Madison Regional Library card holders can add books to the list of things they can pick up at the drive-thru in Charlottesville thanks to the newly installed service window at the Gordon Avenue Library that opened on Monday.
The drive-up window was an item on the library system’s five-year development plan for the Gordon Avenue branch. Jointly funded by the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the building’s new feature provides another avenue of access for those searching for their next read but may not be able to leave their vehicles for a variety of reasons: no available parking, restricted mobility, young children, pets, even social anxiety.
“The benefit to the community is that it takes out some of the logistical barriers for people to get books more easily,” Camille Thompson, branch manager, told The Daily Progress. “This will encourage library use, because some people will even avoid the library when they see it’s busy. So it’s nice for people to have the ability to still get books when it may be a time where they might not want to come in.”
While a drop box will still be available 24/7 for patrons to return books, the operating hours for the drive-thru differ slightly from the regular library hours. The window will open at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, except for Wednesday when it will open at noon. It will run until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A staff member will be posted on the other side of the window to deliver books on hold to those in their vehicles or help track down any library material they need.
Just a couple blocks from University of Virginia Grounds, the Gordon Avenue Library is popular among college students, retirees residing in the neighboring Martha Jefferson House assisted living facility and families with young children from nearby elementary and preschools, said Thompson.
Gordon Avenue is not the first library in the city to provide drive-up services. The library’s sister branch Northside Library took over the former Phillips Supply Building in March of 2015. During the remodel, architects included a drive-up window that has been “massively successful,” according to Northside librarian Rachel Neff.
“We have more people picking up holds at the drive-up window than coming inside to pick up these days,” Neff, who has worked at Northside for 10 years, told The Daily Progress. “During the pandemic, because we had the window, we were able to provide partial service for patrons. Despite the limited services offered, we still had people looping around in the back parking lot. It looked like a Chick-Fil-A line.”
Even post-pandemic, the window is always busy with cars coming up to it every few minutes to pick up their holds, according to Neff.
“The Northside branch has seen great success, so it’s nice to bring it to this side of town,” said Thompson.
Thompson mentioned several of her avid readers were eagerly awaiting the opening of the window so they didn’t have to haul armfuls of books to their cars.
Community members aren’t the only ones enjoying the new service.
“It’s a lot of fun from my perspective to be working the window,” said Thompson. “It’s nice to have people be so enthusiastic about the new service. You get to see dogs and adorable children in the car, and it’s always fun to see that too.”