Checking out the latest at the La Jolla library: online programming, book pickup and drop-off

La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory reads "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" on Facebook Live.
La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory reads “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” on Facebook Live for his Adventure & Mystery Club.

The La Jolla/Riford Library has seen a lot of change in recent months.

After shutting down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, staff began focusing on online programming, figuring out how to get reading material to patrons and how to handle the summer reading program (which is now underway). This month, the library reopened its book drop-off.

“In the beginning, there were a lot of changes,” branch manager Bill Mallory said. “It seemed like there was new information weekly that was going out. People were still trying to figure things out, and the library system, as a whole, didn’t have the protocols in place for something like this and they were feeling their way through it all. Eventually, we had a set of rules that we all worked out.”

After the building at 7555 Draper Ave. was closed, staff members switched focus to virtual training programs — everything from working with homeless people to how to handle cash safely — and finishing projects they otherwise wouldn’t have time to do.

“It’s been a very productive time,” said youth services librarian Dana Sanchez. “I was proud and surprised at how fast our librarians took up the cause and started offering online programming.”

In April, Sanchez started doing a weekly series called “Simple Science for Staying In” on the Riford Library’s Facebook page,

“They were simple, fun and easy science projects that kids can do at home using everyday materials to keep them engaged in learning, safely,” she said. “I also started arts and crafts, book talks and more.”

Mallory launched some adult programming and began his Adventure & Mystery Club, during which he reads different stories in the public domain, as chosen by the 49-member group, three times a week, also on the Facebook page. Readings are at 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The group currently is on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. Recorded readings are posted on

La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory.
“People want to interact with others, discuss books, discuss ideas. It keeps the brain going. It’s a part of the role the library plays in the community,” says La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory.

When June came, the focus switched to the San Diego Public Library system’s summer reading program.

Themed “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover,” much of the summer program is the same as in previous years. Participants of all ages read 10 books or 10 hours to earn a prize bag. The prize this year is a tote bag filled with free museum passes, coupons for local restaurants and a free age-appropriate book. However, staff has not been given the go-ahead to distribute the tote bags when participants turn in their logs.

The program runs through Aug. 31. Participants can register at or pick up a paper log at the La Jolla branch.

Unlike in previous years, when activities that go with the summer reading program theme were held in person, they are now online. Sanchez said some are live and others are pre-recorded at

Also in June, the Riford Library became one of 18 branches to offer contactless pickup of library materials.

“Patrons cannot come into the library to browse, but they can reserve material online and find a title they like and place it on hold,” Mallory said.

When items are ready for pickup, patrons receive an email. When arriving at the library, they call in, and staff, with masks and gloves, brings the materials out. Patrons must have their library card number available to check out materials.

Youth Services Librarian Dana Sanchez stands at the contactless pickup table at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

On July 6, the La Jolla branch, along with branches citywide, reopened its book drop-off, which operates from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.

“We take these items, masked and gloved, and place them in a separate room where we hold onto them for three full days,” Mallory said. “The study the city is using determined there is no evidence of the virus on inanimate objects after three days. So after three days, we discharge them and make them available.”

Though the library is accepting returned materials, it is not accepting book donations at this time.

As for what’s ahead, “that’s really anyone’s guess,” Mallory said.

“I really think there is a lot of folks who have been missing the books … and it is part of their normal life and keeps some semblance of normalcy for them,” he said. “They want the books, they want to read and get a bit of an escape to keep the mind active. ...

“The online component is just a continuation of that. People want to interact with others, discuss books, discuss ideas. It keeps the brain going. It’s a part of the role the library plays in the community.”

Sanchez said she is working with other youth services librarians to provide online programming to families who do not have internet access.

“Now more than ever, people are craving that sense of community,” she said. “Libraries have always been hubs of the community as a physical space, but now it is kind of highlighted even more, as our physical locations have closed, that we are still hubs of the community, they can still access our resources and take advantage of the programs we have to offer.

“Regardless of the status of our physical building, our goal is still to foster that love of reading and encourage innovation in our community. Providing reading materials and education and creative programs online … is a way that we can prove that we are able to benefit our community throughout the pandemic. I’m very proud of everything we have been able to accomplish and provide our community thus far, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.” ◆