Libraries prepare while waiting for reopening approval
Local library officials are waiting for word from Gov. Mike DeWine on when to reopen the doors that have been shut since mid-March because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Library officials are preparing by remodeling their interiors and having curbside activities this month and in June.
Michelle Alleman, director of the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles, said the library is preparing to restart library services “in the safest way we possibly can.
“We do have reopening plans in motion. The governor has not really spoken yet on when libraries will be officially reopening,” she said.
She said the health and safety of the library staff and the patrons are top priorities. Library staff are to return to work this week.
“As our state moves toward a reopening of business based on Gov. DeWine’s Responsible Restart Ohio, the library’s plans feature a slow, cautious, and phased-in return to service,” Alleman said.
She said the book and audio visual return boxes will reopen Wednesday, with library staff expecting a flood of returned items and to work to empty the return boxes safely as frequently as possible. If return boxes are full, patrons are asked not to leave items.
“We are expecting a lot of materials to be coming back. As recommended by the Ohio Library Council, all returned materials will be quarantined for four days before being checked in, sanitized and put away,” she said.
Alleman said curbside service is set for June 1. She said all in-person library programming has been canceled through August, but virtual summer reading activities will begin soon. She said many online services are available.
“We are starting off slow with reopening plans. We are a smaller library and will see what we can do to open. While we are happy to be able to serve the public in these new ways at this time, we are sad that we cannot yet open our doors,” Alleman said.
She said the library has disinfecting supplies in place and employees will wear masks as part of the protocol when doors open.
Alleman said she is not sure how the library will open to the public or if it may be by an-appointment basis.
Cheryl Bush, public relations manager with the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, said the leadership team is developing a plan to resume limited, in-person library service as soon as possible, tentatively in early June.
“We are developing a plan that will be implemented in phases once we have additional health and safety measures in place,” Bush said.
Bush said initially the six libraries in the system — Warren, Brookfield, Cortland, Howland, Liberty and Lordstown — will operate on reduced hours. The first hour of each day will be reserved exclusively for elderly and vulnerable customers
She said the well-being of the community is of utmost importance during the crisis.
“Our plans will utilize guidelines and recommendations from state and federal government and health officials. We are working on putting enhanced protocols in place to ensure the safety of staff and customers, and the safe handling of library books, videos and other materials customers borrow from the library,” Bush said.
Plans include plastic protective barriers at the checkout desks at the six library buildings, tables and chairs temporarily being removed, and social-distancing measures being put in place. While customers will be able to visit the library to pick out books and other items, leisure reading or studying at the library will be discouraged during the first reopening phase, Bush said.
The library will institute numerous sanitizing measures throughout the buildings, as well as staff wellness and temperature checks, safety training and the use of masks and gloves for staff.
“Our reopening timeline may be impacted by the availability of sanitizing supplies, masks and gloves, as well as the installation of social distancing measures at each of our library buildings,” Bush said.
Because its closing, free access to online materials has been made available.
Bush said a new project being launched is to capture the personal experiences of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and preserve them for future generations.
She said community members are invited to share how they personally have been impacted by this global health crisis by filling out a brief form available on the library website. The form includes a few questions as a starting point to encourage reflection, but participants are welcome to write simple observations to more detailed personal stories.
“Compiling these stories, anecdotes and observations now will create a lasting record of how we are living, learning and working during this unprecedented time,” Bush said.
Some responses and any accompanying photos will be posted on the library website and on library social media, and will become part of the library’s online digital archive.
RoseAnn Lubert, director of the Girard Free Library, said library officials are waiting to hear from DeWine and are expecting to receive word in early June.
She said remodeling work is being done, including putting up plastic partitions to protect staff and patrons when the doors reopen. Plans include enclosing the circulation area.
“We are hopeful to get back early this summer. I’d love to be able to have people return to the library, but our world has changed,” Lubert said, noting that children wrote in chalk on the sidewalk they miss the library and want to come back.
She said while the summer children’s reading programs have been canceled, the online services are continuing.
Lubert said when the library does open, plans will be to have time limits on how long and how many people can be in the library.
“We will do whatever we have to protect our staff and those coming into the library,” Lubert said.