It was a sunny enough Thursday outside the Chanhassen Library. Maintenance workers pounded on a nearby sidewalk and a few cars idled in the circular drive.
Cue Jan Calos and her daughter, Julia, in a mid-size sedan. They pull up with face masks and an armful of books, returning old ones and picking up new reads.
It’s a now-regular ritual for the mother-daughter duo. It takes a matter of minutes, but to Jan, the process is “just amazing.”
Though the buildings themselves are closed to the public, Carver County libraries have offered curbside pickup since mid-March. Patrons can put materials on hold via the online catalog or calling in.
After books or DVDs have been transferred to the right library and quarantined for 72 hours, staff will call and the material is yours for six weeks.
“You don’t go into the library. You don’t see anybody. You don’t talk to anybody. You just pick up some books in a bag,” Calos said. “It really works well.”
Curbside pickup started as a pilot program at the Chanhassen and Waconia branches, said Carver County Library Director Heidi Hoks. It went so well that city managers started asking to do the same in their cities, she said.
“We’ve gotten so many compliments from the public,” said Hoks, whose office is in the Chaska Library building.
Hoks said the curbside system is now found throughout the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, extending to greater Minnesota. Though she doesn’t have numbers on how many people are using it, she said the service has been gaining traction.
“We’re thrilled that we were able to give them something that could be so valuable to them,” Hoks said.
But it doesn’t come without a workload for library staff. When asked if the curbside system would continue after libraries reopen, Hoks said the service is staff-intensive but it’s a possibility.
“To continue it after we are open to the public with our full suite of services would mean we would need additional staffing,” she said. “However, it is a very popular service and I’ve learned never to say ‘never.’”
Though the state is slowly reopening as summer enters the picture, families might not put books back on the shelf so soon.
Nicole Gohman and her two young children use the Watertown library, also in the Carver County system. They used the library often before the virus — including storytime on Mondays and craft days.
They’ve only used the pickup service once, but Gohman said they checked out maybe twice as many books as their usual 10 or 12.
“With everything going on, I was kind of like, ‘You can get as many as you’d like,’” she remembered saying to her child.
Gohman’s children, ages 6 and 3, are currently into the “Elephant and Piggie” book series by Mo Willems. They’re part of the bundle the family likes to pick out.
They ordered around 20 books on a Monday and picked them up two days later.
When she arrived, she said the staff were “fabulous.” The books were all bagged up — with a little ribbon, to boot.
“It was so cute,” Gohman said.
She grabbed the book bag when a librarian came out and said, “Hold on!” before returning outside with a few more books that just arrived from different libraries.
“We really love to read books together,” she said. “For us, it was really nice to check out different books that we have never read before so we can have a little variety.”
With the two of them and a dog in their Chanhassen apartment, the Caloses are relying on good reads lately.
Calos said Julia, a freshman at Chanhassen High School, finishes schoolwork by 1 p.m. or so. She’s not swimming or working her after-school job anymore. Calos is retired, but said she keeps somewhat busy with a charity.
To make up for it, they’ll go for walks and play games together. But there’s less congregating with neighbors for morning coffee and less socializing with friends, so when late afternoon hits? Into the books they go.
“By 3 or 4 o’clock I’m just exhausted because she’s now my new best friend,” Calos said of her daughter, with a laugh. “And so I can say, ‘I need a time out. I’m going to my room.’ And I can just read my books.”
She said the two of them are probably reading now more than usual. Calos said she’s on a fixed income and can’t buy books online or in bookstores, nor is she in a position to pay for TV services or read e-books.
“It’s just — oh, it’s just a godsend. I hope everybody knows about it,” Calos said of the curbside pickup.
Library director Hoks also also noted the importance of clean and easily-accessible books, especially in times like these.
“People just need to be near their libraries,” she said.
Calos is currently reading “A Gentleman in Moscow,” about a man in house arrest, and “Year of Wonders,” about a quarantined village amid a plague.
“It’s almost ironic, the books I happen to pick,” Calos said. “I just thought, ‘Oh wow. That’s really weird to read these two books while I’m stuck in the house.’”
Whether deep inside a gripping novel or new biography, the book-lovers said reading offers a chance to get lost somewhere else — even if it does hit a little too close to home.
Sarah and Alex Zeman, like most parents, believe there may be great things in store for their newborn baby.
Given how and where she was born, they may be right.
“We feel that if you are born about a month early on the side of the road in a pandemic, you must be destined for greatness,” Sarah said, less than 48 hours after Poppy was born at the intersection of Galpin Boulevard and Lake Lucy Road.
“Yes, it was quite romantic to deliver a baby under the stars with just my wife and two daughters,” Alex said with a laugh. “It was pretty, pretty romantic.”
Poppy Elaine, due June 9, was officially born 2:10 a.m. Wednesday, May 13, weighing in at 5 pounds, 5 ounces, and with a length of 18.5 inches. She went home Saturday from the hospital in Waconia.
“We are all doing extremely well given what we went through,” Sarah said. “It certainly is going to be a great story to tell as the years go on.”
Sarah, 32, had been having contractions throughout the day on Tuesday and had seen a doctor that day as well.
“I was hoping to get a few more days; or maybe even a week or more,” she said. “I went to bed and had a normal night, and just after Alex had gotten to bed after being up late working, my water broke.”
The Chanhassen couple’s plan was to drop their daughter, Charlotte, off at Alex’s parents’ home in Wayzata before continuing on to a Maple Grove hospital for delivery.
“I was thinking, perfect, we’ll get to the hospital, I’ll have my epidural and we’ll probably have the baby by mid-morning or so,” Sarah said. “Was I wrong!”
En route, Sarah felt sick several times and Alex pulled the vehicle over.
“She wasn’t feeling that well and had to get out,” he said. “The next thing you know, I’m under center.”
Sarah was in great pain, so Alex made the 911 call.
“I was sitting there like, to me, forever,” Sarah recalled.
“Before paramedics arrived, there were firefighters and others there, but they sort of wanted to stay out of the way; but I was ready to go,” Alex said. “Charlotte was right there, screaming, ‘Da, da, da, da, da.’ It was quite the scene. There were so many vehicles there that it just lit of the whole neighborhood.”
The baby’s head was out before Ridgeview Medical Center paramedics arrived. About three minutes later, Poppy was delivered. The family did not know the gender ahead of time.
“We have to give a shout out to those paramedics,” Sarah said, quickly adding: “The baby was half born and my husband was right there coaching me through it. He was an absolute hero.”
Alex’s parents, Mike and Elissa Zeman, got to the delivery scene a few minutes after Poppy was born and took Charlotte, who turns 2 in early August, with them.
Sarah and Poppy were transported to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia.
“Poppy was one of the names we had kind of kicked around but we had other ones picked out,” Sarah said. “But the way the baby was moving around, being feisty and kind of stubborn, those other names just didn’t seem to fit. Poppy does, and I love the combination of Charlotte and Poppy.”
Poppy is considered a girl’s name of Latin origin meaning “red flower,” and is associated with someone with lots of spunk.
Alex, 32, an IT recruiter by career, who said he has no medical training, added: “Once is enough.”
“When we moved to Chanhassen three years ago, we loved the idea of Chan being a small town, yet so connected to the big city,” Sarah said. “It’s a place where you can still see the stars, but I didn’t think I’d be enjoying them while giving birth on the side of the road.”
Sarah has a plan if she has another pregnancy.
“My labor with Charlotte was pretty long and I had an epidural in the hospital; quite a different experience than this one,” she said. “If we have another one, we’ll probably get a hotel room by the hospital a few weeks ahead of time.”