Cathy Simpson couldn’t wait to see the staff and greet the public when the library doors opened for the first time since the start of the last lockdown.
The CEO of the NOTL Public Library has been working from home, and will continue to — her office is being used to help staff spread out, she says. But she planned to be there Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. to see who comes through the door first — she’s missed seeing those she works with and the regular library patrons.
In-person library visits restarted after the first lockdown in March, 2021, says Simpson, and were suspended the next month with the provincial stay-at-home-order, “so we’ve been closed to visitors since April 8 of this year, and are very excited to reopen.”
The province moved into step two of reopening last Wednesday, which required 70 per cent of adults with one vaccination dose and 20 per cent with two doses for at least two weeks. Continued improvement in key public health indicators, including reduced hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and weekly case counts, were also necessary to move forward. This stage of reopening focuses on the renewal of more outdoor activities, and limited indoor services with small numbers of people where face coverings are worn, and other restrictions in place.
With little advance warning from the province of last Wednesday’s reopening date, the decision was made to give staff a few days to prepare and open this Tuesday.
“Things are constantly changing, and we’re attached to the community centre, which isn’t opening. But if we close off those doors and operate as a separate entity, we can open,” says Simpson.
There is passive screening with signage, and masks must be worn, she says.
“We were worried we might have to do active screening, which would mean another staff person, but we don’t, although we have to actively screen staff. And we can’t just open the doors, we have to be ready to meet all the government regulations, including the province, the town, and public health.”
When the pandemic began, one of the board members suggested a journal should be kept of what was happening at the library, and it’s been helpful to look back and know exactly what they were doing during previous lockdowns and reopening, says Simpson. It helps to keep track of what has been done in the past, in terms of screening, cleaning, and quarantining of materials. “It’s like a COVID diary,” she says, and will be something to give to the NOTL Museum for its COVID-19 archives when the pandemic is over.
At 25 per cent capacity, the library can accommodate 30 people, not including staff, says Simpson.
It is not likely to be an issue — they’ve done this before, without lineups, she says. Patrons will be encouraged not to browse for too long. There will be no seating, or magazines or newspapers to read on the premises, and computers will be available by appointment only, for 45 minutes at a time. Tech tutoring appointments are also available.
Other than that, and plexiglass at the counter, it’s business as usual. Curbside pickups continue to be available, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with book orders placed online or by telephone.
Although there are plans to start a book club, most of the in-person programming at this point is for kids, says Simpson, using the outdoors as much as possible, including the pergola for shade at the back. There are some new staff members to help with the extensive summer kids’ programs. They meet the youngsters out front, take them to the back of the library building, and return them to the front when they’re done, with parents waiting to pick them up.
The adult programs will likely start up in the fall, with a larger capacity permitted in step three, but for now, kids are the priority.
“It will be really great to see the kids back,” says Simpson. “They’ve been schooling at home, and missing their friends. This is really important for them.”
There will be some revitalization of the community garden when the construction of the nursery school is complete, says Simpson, with non-invasive species planted under the direction of master gardener-in-training Betty Knight, and the addition of irrigation equipment to ensure it’s low maintenance.
For more information on times and programs, or to order books for curbside pickup, visit https://notlpubliclibrary.org or call 905-468-2023.