Library Reopening by Appointment
Aug 27, 2020 11:31AM
By Susan Manning
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most common and popular community spaces has been closed to outside visitors—the library.
Slowly, but surely, though, it is opening again to visitors. According to Library Director Robyn York, they have been able to manage an appointment-only phased opening thanks to low COVID-19 numbers in town.
“Currently we are open by appointment and the library is locked to the public. If Hopedale’s infection rate continues to stay low, then we are optimistic that we will be able to open the doors to the public in September or October,” she said, reminding people to check the website or call for any updates.
She said despite the disappointment of being closed for so many months, patrons have been patient.“Patrons have been supportive and have been appreciative of the ability to come into the library. We have loved all of the phone calls and outside distanced visits patrons have been making with us. Not everyone is ready to come into the library space, but we are grateful for the folks who do want to say hi when picking up their books through curbside service or walking around town,” said York.
The phase 3 opening will certainly take some time to get used to, but people don’t seem to mind, she said.
“We have a few regular patrons who have adjusted to the new routine of registering for an appointment, wearing a mask, signing the contact-tracing book and sanitizing before they can even step beyond the threshold. It has been working out really well so far,” York said.
What differences can patrons expect when they visit library now?
“There are almost no chairs in the library space. That is to encourage patrons to select their books and move on their way,” she said, noting that limits have to be enforced to those who visit. “Unfortunately we have to encourage patrons to spend no more than 20 minutes in the building on the main floor, and 30 minutes on the bottom floor, where the Children’s Room is located.”
A visit now is more of a pointed, mission-driven visit versus a meandering afternoon.
“Patrons sign up for the type of browsing—main floor or Children’s—and they enter through separate doors to access those collections. We do not allow patrons to move from one floor to another. The only exception is our handicapped patrons. They get their own entrance that is adjacent to the elevator. We are trying to minimize fraternization between our children’s area patrons and our main floor patrons to keep everyone healthy,” the director said.
Currently there are limits on the number of patrons who can be in the library at one time. York said main floor visits are limited to four people per time slot; children’s room visits are limited to eight people per time slot and no more than two family groups at a time are allowed.
For those patrons who are higher risk, there are two slots available at the beginning of each day. Also, any family that wants to have their own time slot in the children’s room can do so with a call to the library.
“We are happy to accommodate them,” York said.
This phased reopening did not happen overnight, however. All staff has been hard at work since April learning new programs and processes so they could get to this point.
“It took about two months to create the opening plan, purchase protective materials, build new structures (the Children’s Room plexiglas containment area), and develop sanitization procedures and other processes to ensure patron health and safety as well as that of the staff,” said York. “The staff have all been a part of creating the reopening plan. We have all done a great deal of research to see what is working in other libraries and adapted services that will work for our library. Additionally, the staff have all been learning new technology at a rapid pace to provide virtual programming, efficient curbside services, and are learning new software to schedule appointment slots.”
With all this work put into this reopening, what will happen to the services that started during the quarantine?
“We are continuing curbside services. We do offer delivery, but most patrons enjoy coming to the library to pick up their materials. Hopedale is a very walkable community and so far only one person has taken us up on the delivery option. Patrons are welcome to request this service,” she said.
Surprising York, the virtual program has not been as popular as expected.
“Virtual programming has not been the hit we hoped it would be, so we are reevaluating that service. Children and families have enjoyed the pop-up storytime and book browsing outside on the library lawn, so we plan to continue offering that service into the fall while the weather cooperates. The adult book group has resumed meetings by Zoom and that is going well, so give us a call if you are interested in joining that active group,” she said.
For those interested in library services other than books, York wanted to remind folks that if you schedule your time, you can take advantage of their copy, scan, or fax services as well.
So what does the future hold? York said to watch out for some new computer and laptop offerings at the library soon. She also said that this summer the library had been running out of Wi-Fi hotspots to lend out, so they will be purchasing more. Of note, is the library Wi-Fi range.
“We boosted our wifi range and folks should be able to access full Internet on our side lawn and upper level parking lot if they need it,” she said.
For York, a return to normalcy is really what she’s hoping for— and this opening is giving her a little taste of that.
“I am most looking forward to there being a vaccine or diminished risk of disease. The drastic changes in socialization have been hard for all of our patrons, no matter the age. Being able to hold events indoors without high risk will be a great turning point, especially as we move to cooler weather and outdoor gathering will be more limited,” she said.