In issuing its re-opening plan earlier this week, the state included public libraries. They’re allowed to start curbside pickup and delivery as soon as May 25, with “browsing inside the library with restrictions” allowable in phase 2 of the re-opening estimated to be a few weeks later.
Wellesley’s Library Board of Trustees discussed the local library’s plan a week earlier at its meeting and shed light on when you might be able to start seeing the results of some of your physical book holds, at least. Requests for books and other materials continue and thousands of holds have been placed.
Wellesley Free Library Director Jamie Jurgensen says the first step will involve bringing supervisors and leadership into the main library and devising procedures for pulling holds for patrons and accepting returns through the automated materials handler. This could begin as soon as May 26. Figuring out spacing issues to support social distancing for staff and patrons, and getting a handle on personal protection equipment, sanitizer, etc., are also among the first steps being taken.
Next up is getting additional staff into the building, perhaps as soon as June 1 if protection and sanitation supplies arrive. The library has already received gloves from the Wellesley Fire Department that don’t cut it for first responders but will work fine for handling library materials. A couple of staffers have also been sewing masks that colleagues will be able to use, Jurgensen says. Movable plexiglass shields that will be placed on surfaces between library staff and patrons are also on the way. As with everyone else, Jurgensen has found bleach wipes the hardest things to come by.
“Oh how I would love to be reading a good book rather than state guidelines and PPE protocols,” she wrote to us.
Once staff is in the building they’ll be able to pull customer’ materials holds, answer phones, make acquisitions, do cataloging, and start thinking about things like hours for when the library opens to foot traffic. Other questions will include how to quarantine books. They probably won’t be getting wiped down, but might get quarantined for a few days…a sort of natural quarantine at first as the backlog of books and materials are processed. The thing is though, once the library opens and books are put on display or in shelves, the touching begins.
There will be plenty of sharing of best practices among libraries as they open, Jurgensen says.
The transfer of materials between libraries will depend in large part on how soon other libraries in the network get back in action. Some, like Natick’s Morse Institute Library, have already begun contactless pickup of materials.
Wellesley’s initial services during this comeback period will be for Wellesley residents only. Curbside pickup, which could begin in mid-June (nothing is certain), will look different than an earlier version: materials will likely be left on a table and they’ll have your name on them so that you can grab them without interacting directly with library staff.
Due dates, currently pushed to June 30, will likely be extended again. The real trick there will be remembering where you’ve put your stuff (we have an official shelf in our house, supposedly). We’ve learned our lesson about proper library materials handling (Time for Mrs. Swellesley to pay up at Wellesley Free Library).
When Wellesley’s libraries re-open to public visitors remains to be seen. But considerations will include how many people to let in at once, how to keep people separated, how to handle use of computers, and more.
So for now, library use consists of enjoying the items you already have and making use of online offerings.
“We always wanted people to discover what we offered digitally, but I don’t know that we wanted it in this way or this fast way,” said board member Ann Howley.