By Erica Quinones
The Chestertown Branch of the Kent County Public Library reopened on Monday, Nov. 9 after months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Oct. 29 email from KCPL originally announced the branch’s reopening as Thursday, Nov. 5. A subsequent Facebook post from KCPL on Nov. 3 delayed the reopening until Nov. 9.
According to Public Services Librarian Annie Woodall ’01, KCPL closed to the public on Monday, March 16.
When the building first closed, staff were accessible by email and phone, and the Digital Library resources remained available, which allows visitors to apply for temporary library cards and access digital materials.
Staff returned to the building when the stay-at-home order lifted. At that time they created modified, distanced versions of their in-person services.
Returned staff were able to give visitors access to their physical resources and run a modified version of their kids’ summer program.
The former appeared in Library To Go, which began in August, according to Woodall.
Library To Go allows visitors to request materials from any of KCPL’s three branches and schedule an appointment to receive those materials, including books, DVDs, board games, and limited printing requests.
According to Woodall, “the state and regional library couriers were able to resume services a couple months ago, so out-of-county items can be requested too.”
With this distanced format, Woodall said that KCPL has rethought how they offer some services, such as finding new books.
Because visitors could not approach the desk and ask a librarian for assistance, KCPL introduced Book Bundles. This service allows visitors to tell a librarian about what they enjoy reading and then receive a curated bundle of five books that match their interests.
While these programs will continue, with the physical buildings reopening, the public can utilize some of KCPL’s in-person services in a modified setting.
KCPL visitors may use the public computers, with a 30-minute cap per person per day; browse and check out materials; request items and receive holds; ask for assistance from librarians; access WiFi, although this was available during the building closures; print and copy documents; and use the device charging stations.
Visitors cannot receive one-on-one computer assistance, make appointments for help with technology, fax, use the meeting rooms, or donate materials, and there will be no in-person programming.
However, according to Woodall, KCPL is creating both in-house and collaborative virtual programming.
According to the Oct. 29 email, because they are open to the public with services such as the computers and materials browsing, the Chestertown branch will open with staggered times from Mondaythrough Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.These times allow the branch staff to both disinfect the public space and continue the Library To Go program.
According to Woodall, the disinfecting will include sanitizing high-touch areas of the library, including public computers, service desks, and tables.
“Since it isn’t practical — or possible — to sanitize every item that might be touched, we encourage people to use their judgement about whether or not browsing the collection is the right choice for them personally,” Woodall said.
There are also modifications to the library entrance, according to the Oct. 29 email.
Visitors must enter from the Calvert Street entrance where they will be greeted at the door by library staff and sanitize their hands. If a visitor must return a book, they should use the book dropbox instead of entering the building.
All visitors ages five and up must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth at all times. Social distancing is in-place, no food or drink are permitted in the library, and both capacity and time in the building are limited.
Woodall said that they will begin with a small number of visitors and adjust their occupancy as time goes on.
While they make adjustments based on how visitors use the library space, they will also make time adjustments based on how many visitors they receive.
According to Woodall, visitors will be able to stay for at least 30 minutes. If there are fewer people waiting to enter the building, they may stay for up to an hour.
But no matter one’s comfort with receiving these services in-person, with the continuation of Library To Go and access to the Digital Library, KCPL hopes they can accommodate every visitor’s needs.
“We hope reopening will allow us to expand the community’s access to information and resources, especially for those who haven’t been able to connect virtually,” Woodall said. “We’re glad to be providing our core vital services and look forward to continuing to connect with the community.”