Library Works to Keep Community ConnectedJul 31, 2020 02:29PM ● By Grace Allen
Public libraries were allowed to re-open to the public on July 6, the start of Phase 3 of Governor Baker’s reopening plan for Massachusetts. However, mandated workplace safety standards and specific safety protocols for individual libraries have resulted in some delaying their openings even further.
Libby O’Neill, the director of Norfolk’s public library, hopes to reopen the library in some capacity by early to mid-August. She says the staff is brainstorming scenarios on how to re-open safely. One of her immediate goals is to make the library’s public computers available to the community as soon as possible, although by appointment only. Browsing the collections may come later, however.
In the meantime, the library has continued to offer patrons varied programming and access to materials.
Local Town Pages contacted O’Neill recently to ask how the library has kept up with the needs of the community during the pandemic.
What are some of the programs available through the library right now?
We are offering library pickup of holds which seems to be very popular. Patrons may place items on hold via the online catalog (or by calling us M/Tu/Th/F 10-2, Wed. 2-7, and Saturday 10-1). When they get a notification that their hold is ready for pick up, they can reserve a pick up appointment on our calendar: https://norfolkpl.org/events/. We are also offering home delivery services to the community.
Our program, Make and Take Crafts for patrons of all ages, is going on right now. We have been hosting virtual book groups, coffee talks, storytimes, and continuing with our program speakers virtually. Sarah Ward (the Associate Director) is doing a spin on her Read It and Eat It program by offering spice pick up once a month to patrons that register for the program. They then meet virtually to discuss how they used the spice.
We have started a new program, Lunch Hour Browsing, outside at the gazebo between 12 and 1 p.m. (schedule varies). Each week there will be a selection from a different genre available to browse. Hand sanitizer will be available and masks are required.
How has NPL adapted during the pandemic to continue serving the public?
Along with all our virtual programs, we did a virtual Community Read with the book “The Mountains Sing” by Que Mai Phan Nguyen (which was available as an eBook and audiobook on Hoopla).
We shifted our focus in purchasing to primarily include digital materials such as eBooks and audiobooks. In addition, we increased the number of Hoopla checkouts per month from 6 to 10. We started offering Kanopy (streaming media) as well.
We provided the community with seeds this spring from our Seed Library. This was very popular!
In addition, we offered a new service, Norfolk Connect Call, in which we reached out to any patrons that would like a friendly chat or technology assistance over the phone.
Has there been any guidance from the state on how to provide programming during the pandemic or have you had to be creative?
There has been some guidance from the state, as well as the Mass Board of Library Commissioners and the Mass Library System. However, yes - we’ve had to get very creative to continue to provide programs and services to the community. Although the library building has been closed to the public for some time now, we truly never closed or stopped offering services. We quickly shifted to a digital branch library and I’m so proud of the staff here for responding immediately and changing gears in order to provide a wealth of virtual programs.
When you do reopen, how will you keep staff and patrons safe?
When we do reopen the building to the public, we will be requiring face masks for both staff and patrons. We will be enforcing social distancing. There is plexiglass at the Circulation Desk and Information Desk. There will be hand sanitizer for the public to use when entering the library. We will also be cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas much more frequently to prevent the spread of germs. Public computers will be wiped down after every use.
Our staff has received training regarding social distancing and hygiene protocols. Employees who are exhibiting any COVID-19-like symptoms do not report to work.
Will there be any changes after you reopen?
We are still working on a re-opening plan so this information may change. Hours will be reduced for some time. We will likely have our first hour be reserved for senior citizens and high-risk patrons. The amount of patrons allowed in the library at any one time will be limited. We will still provide lobby pick up and home delivery for those that don’t feel comfortable coming into the library.
Virtual programming will continue through the remainder of this year. During the rest of the summer, we will hold a couple of adult programs (knitting and silent book group) outside. We hope to provide some small, socially-distanced programs at the library this fall, but it will depend on the COVID-19 situation and numbers in Norfolk County.
Are you accepting book donations for the next Book and Bake Sale, usually held in April?
At this time, we are not accepting book donations.