For folks like the Moriarty family, who typically visit the Roseville branch as much as three times a week, the Ramsey County Library’s curbside pickup service is a way to restore some normalcy to their lives while their favorite library is closed.

Lis Moriarty, son Liam, 5, and daughter Brenna, 4, walk to the library from their home each week to pick up new books. The children’s librarians, well acquainted with the family, often slip surprise books in their order and come out to chat from afar with them.

“It’s a gift,” Lis Moriarty said. “It’s preserving that piece of the community we can still access when it feels like so much is inaccessible.”

The pandemic may have closed library doors, but the Ramsey County Library is checking out more than 1,000 books, DVDs and other materials daily through its new and blossoming curbside pickup program.

Ramsey County quickly pivoted to the curbside model at its Roseville, Shoreview and Maplewood branches after Gov. Tim Walz issued his statewide stay-at-home order last month.

Since then all county library systems in the metro area, as well as St. Paul’s, have established some form of curbside service where patrons can pick up books they’ve ordered.

It’s proven wildly successful. For folks forced to stay at home, getting lost in a historical novel by Hilary Mantel or wrapped up in the intricate details of the Paleolithic era can prove to be a great escape.

“People are stuck at home and looking for stuff to do. Books are a critical part of that,” said Jeff Eide, senior manager of Ramsey County’s Roseville library.

The items checked out at the three Ramsey library branches through the curbside program amount to about 15% of what’s borrowed when their doors are open at all seven locations, Eide said. Librarians are welcoming new customers by issuing new library cards over the phone.

The Hennepin County Library system added curbside pickup on April 13 at eight locations, serving nearly 2,000 patrons so far. Staffers also are issuing library cards through the library website.

Both Ramsey and Hennepin patrons can use the library websites or call in orders. For those not quite sure what they want, librarians will offer suggestions over the phone.

The East Lake branch in south Minneapolis has become one of the busiest curbside locations in Hennepin County. Keeping libraries open in some fashion is a matter of equity, staffers said, since it’s often working-class and lower-income families that are in greatest need of free access to books and educational materials.

“Hennepin County residents have invested significantly in their library resources,” said spokesman Josh Yetman. “It was so important to figure out how to connect residents with their resources.”

It certainly has worked with the Moriarty kids. Liam loves books on animals, including an animal encyclopedia he checks out frequently. Brenna is obsessed with all things princess.

And Mom? She said she likes to get lost in historical fiction and young adult novels. “I don’t know what we would do without our library,” Moriarty said.