Advice on how to take the first steps to re-entering your local bookstores and libraries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you been struggling to get back to your normal bookish routines since the start of the pandemic? I know for me personally, months of not being able to go to the bookstore or library has really thrown off how I interact with my book community, and I’m ready to—safely—get back to my normal literary routines! 

In many states, businesses have started reopening to the public, including bookstores and libraries. For us book lovers, this means the return of much-missed trips strolling through bookshelves stacked with books, searching for the next best story to sink our teeth into. As bookstores and libraries open their doors once again, it’s hard not to throw caution to the wind and immediately head to your favorite book spot. However, despite the current reopenings, it’s vital to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. So, in order to keep you and everyone around you safe, here are a few tips and tricks to try when you decide to make your next literary outing.

Wear a mask.

In many places, this is the new normal and it’s definitely the easiest way you can make your trip to the bookstore or library safe for everyone involved. Because many people who contract COVID are asymptomatic (meaning they don’t show any symptoms of the virus but are still contagious), it’s not always apparent who should be staying inside to quarantine. Wearing a mask when out and about on your bookstore or library visits is the first and most basic step you can take to protect those around you and make sure you personally aren’t spreading the virus. Some public places won’t even allow you to enter if you’re not wearing a mask, so grab a mask, head to the nearest bookstore or library, and find some great new reads while keeping yourself and your book community safe!

And if you want to make your mask wearing extra bookish, there are tons of literary-themed masks you can buy online that are every booklover-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic’s dream!

Don’t touch the books unless you’re going to check out or buy them. 

I recently made a trip to Barnes & Noble for the first time in months, and it was definitely different from any of my past bookstore visits. I was inside the store, ready to get back to perusing the vast collection of books, when my sister kindly informed me that I shouldn’t touch any books I didn’t plan on buying. WHAT?! But once I got over my initial shock, I realized that this was a smart idea. Hands carry so many germs, and I didn’t want to touch a book that had also been touched by someone who may have COVID or has interacted with some who has it.

While definitely different, this in no way made my bookstore visit unpleasant. At first, I was a little bummed not being able to pull any and all books off the shelf, feel their covers, read the back cover copy, and flip through a few pages. However, I discovered a few upsides to navigating a bookstore without touching any book you want.

  • Book spines are beautiful. I have a newfound appreciation for the design of a book’s spine. Since I couldn’t pull out a book to look at its cover, I paid close attention to the details on the spine, and I can now say that, if done right, a book spine can just as easily capture my attention and make me want to buy a book as an entire book cover.


  • Getting organized and planning ahead. I used to arrive at the bookstore without a particular book in mind that I wanted to buy. I would search the shelves, pulling out every book that caught my eye until I found the one I wanted. However, not being able to touch any book on a whim has helped me get organized and learn how to plan ahead. Now, before going to the bookstore, I take a good look at the list of books I want to read but don’t own that I keep in the Notes app on my phone, do a bit of research online if necessary, and decide which book (or books) I plan on buying once I get to the bookstore. That way, I can grab a copy of my soon-to-be-purchase and flip through the pages to my heart’s content while I roam around looking for more potential purchases. Personally, I just feel better walking through a bookstore with at least one book in my hand. And who doesn’t need a little more planning and organization in their lives during these crazy times?


Support virtually if you’re still uncomfortable going out in public.

This pandemic is by no means over, so there is still a risk whenever you go to a public place. If you’re not quite ready to make the trip to your local library or bookstore in person, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to interact with your book community from the safety and comfort of your own home! For libraries, check and see if your local library has an app. Many libraries have their own apps that members can download and use to check out books, both physical and electronic, so you can support them no matter where you are. Libraries also have thousands of books readily available for check out in ebook format that they might not have in print, so using a virtual app can often mean you have access to even more books than if you visited in person. Staying home and having access to more books? Sounds like a win-win to me!

Since the start of this pandemic, local bookstores have had to get creative online in order to stay in business. Of course, the most obvious way to support your local bookstore during the pandemic is to buy from their online store. But your virtual support doesn’t have to end there! Many local bookstores have also started offering online gift cards for purchase, the perfect book gift for yourself or a friend that you can buy without having to make a trip to the bookstore. And, if your favorite indie bookstore is a non-profit and you want to show extra support, you can call or email to ask if they accept donations. If they don’t accept donations but you still want to help out, consider donating to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping bookstore owners and workers that are experiencing financial difficulties.

Follow on social media and sign up for newsletters.

Engaging on social media is also a great way to show virtual support for your favorite bookstore and library, all while immersing yourself in constant bookish content! Bookstores will often use their social media platforms to post about everything from literary events they’re hosting, to special book giveaways, to the classic aesthetically pleasing photos of books that we all love. There’s nothing better than flooding your social media timelines with literary content, especially considering how stressful being on social media can currently be.

Many bookstores and libraries also have newsletters that are packed full of literary information to keep you virtually connected to the book world. Most libraries and bookstores have newsletters that you can sign up for on their websites or social media pages; all you need to do is give your email address. Newsletter subscribers often receive amazing perks like special discounts on merchandise or first-come-first-serve tickets to events like book signings or author lectures. Newsletters will usually contain other bookish news as well, making them the perfect way to stay in touch with the book industry around you, all while staying home!


-Kierra Sondereker