One reporter tries Santa Clara Public Library’s new alternative to borrowing library books: the Grab & Go Bag


Courtesy of Paul Sims

Each Grab & Go Bag contains five books, including some newer releases and some old.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, book lovers face larger issues than overdue library books. Due to county health guidelines, readers no longer have the freedom to browse the library shelves. Thus, the Santa Clara Public Library started a new system to help readers discover new books: the Grab & Go Bag.

I join a small group of people and line up six feet apart from the others waiting to get their hands on a Grab & Go Bag. Each bag contains five books, including newly-released and older ones. The bundles provide readers with the unique experience of discovering books they would likely not have read otherwise. 

According to Assistant City Librarian Paul Sims, the idea for the Grab & Go Bag was originally thought up by Rachel Schmidt, the Program Coordinator of the Children’s Department, as an innovative way to make use of a large collection of untouched books. 

“We had a huge collection of books that weren’t being used. We were only checking out items that had holds placed in them,” Sims said. “Library staff started pulling items and sorted them into the different categories and age-focused groups.”

The library began checking out children’s Grab & Go bags in the beginning of August and added adult selections a few weeks later, according to Sims.

As I made my way closer to the check-out table, I contemplated which type of Grab & Go Bag I would choose. Next to the table was a colorful sign that listed 16 separate options, each representing a different literature genre. The bundles ranged from elementary level books to more advanced ones, such as teen fiction, manga, paperback romance, adult mystery and adult fiction. 

When I reached the front of the line, I told a librarian on the other side of a plexiglass barrier my selections, conveniently indicated by a number on the sign. She wrote down my library card number, then sent me to wait next to the pick-up table. A few minutes later, I grabbed my two mysterious brown bags off the table, resisting the urge to look at what books I had been given. I waited until I arrived at the car to explore the surprises that awaited. 

I received a total of ten books from two different genres: teen fiction and manga. The books varied in page count, some short and others exceeding 600 pages. The manga bag mostly consisted of DC comics, comedic graphic books, and other types of comics. I was disappointed by the lack of graphic novels, yet I thoroughly enjoyed some of the short joke books. 

One of the books I received was the short fantasy novel, “Phantom Wheel” by Tracy Deebs, which was most similar to my taste. At first, “Phantom Wheel” appeared to be another banal sci-fi book, but as the story progressed, I found myself drawn to its emphasis on the importance of teamwork and bond-building between the six main characters. 

As we live in a reality where day-to-day pleasures such as browsing the library have been put on hold, Grab & Go Bags are a creative solution aimed toward maintaining some semblance of normalcy. They are an excellent and safe method for finding my monthly read.