After months of closures due to COVID-19, local libraries are beginning to open up for in-person visits.
Until now, most libraries in the Twin Counties have been limited to curbside pickup, with patrons not permitted to go inside and browse books, or use the public computers.
“Libraries are missing their patrons terribly, we’re trying our hardest, We’re also a trusted institution so we’re trying really hard to make people not feel that trust is misplaced, that we’re being as careful as possible, and as protective of our partons health and safety as possible,” said AnnaLee Dragon, director of the Kinderhook Memorial Library and chairwoman of the Columbia County Library Association.
Dragon said she expects the Kinderhook Memorial Library to begin allowing in-person patronage in October.
Libraries require patrons to wear masks and keep a safe social distance from one another. Some local libraries have decided to do this by creating appointment windows that visitors can sign up for ahead of time.
Others are allowing patrons to come without an assigned time, but are limiting the number of people allowed in at any given time, and in some cases libraries are limiting the amount of time that patrons can visit, depending on how busy they expect to be.
The Heermance Memorial Library in Coxsackie opened Tuesday. The library’s director, Catherine Benson, said they had two visitors come into the library shortly after it opened for the day.
The library removed its tables and chairs and posted signs to encourage social distancing, promote good hand washing, and ask visitors not to reshelve materials, Benson said.
“We’re excited to interact with patrons again, but at a socially distant length. We’re trying to be a good example for the public to see that we can return to having the public come in again, in a smart and thoughtful manner, with their safety and our safety in mind,” Benson said.
The library is allowing up to 10 visitors into the library at a time, and will continue to offer curbside book pickup. The library is also increasing its hours and will open at 10 a.m. instead of the previous noon opening time.
The Claverack Free Library is open for in-person visits starting Wednesday. Patrons can browse the library in-person on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-5 p.m. Curbside pickup is also available on those days from 2-6 p.m., and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Computers are spaced apart and are available to patrons for 30 minutes at a time. They will be cleaned between users.
The New Lebanon Library began offering in-person appointments last week for patrons to browse books and use computers.
“For right now, just because we’re still in the beginning, we’re limiting visits to 15 minutes,” said Library Director Moriah Sears. “We also have separate hours set for people to use the computers; they can use computers for 30 minutes.”
The library will also continue to offer curbside book pickup, as well as offer online programming during this time, Sears said. Some of their more popular virtual programs this summer were craft kits, science kits and online Dungeons & Dragons games.
Libraries are quarantining books and other materials handled by the public for 72 hours to help limit potential spread of COVID-19.
Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the virus can survive for a limited time on hard surfaces, putting returned books in quarantine before they become available to other patrons can help to limit potential spread of the virus.
Germantown Public Library Director Lynn Place hopes the library will be able to open for in-person patrons sometime next week.
“We’re so excited that we’re at this phase,” Place said. “We want to make sure that our patrons, our community and our staff are safe. We’re looking forward to reopening to the public.”
When the library opens, six patrons will be allowed inside at a time for up to 45 minutes to browse books and use computers.
When the library does reopen for in-person visits they will no longer be offering curbside book pickup, Place said.
The Greenville Public Library does not have a date planned for reopening for in-person visits.
“Unfortunately, we have not made that decision at this point, director Barbara Flach said. “We’ve been working on continuing with curbside and we’re working on a couple of projects that we might want to take care of while we are just doing the curbside.”
The Greenville library is also offering curbside printing, fax and copying services, Flach said.