After more than a year of physical closure to the public, the libraries of the Haute VallÃ©e are reopening their doors.
“They didn’t storm the doors, but of course we saw a lot of old faces that we missed last year,” said Nancy Tusinski, director of the Hartland Public Library, which has fully reopened. its doors to the public earlier. this month. âIt’s a big homecomingâ¦ for some of our clients and for us too.
Hartland Library is asking patrons to wear masks, regardless of their immunization status, as younger visitors to the library cannot be vaccinated at this time. A few months before the reopening, customers were able to make an appointment to visit the library. As the virus rate slowed and vaccination rates increased, full reopening became more feasible.
âWe listened to the science,â Tusinski said.
Like the Hartland Public Library, Libraries in Lebanon got off to a slow start when they reopened the Kilton Public Library in downtown West Lebanon on June 14, director Sean Fleming said. Library officials put in place a capacity limit and a half-hour time limit, which they put in place after a week. (The Lebanon Library in downtown Lebanon remains closed for renovations expected to be completed in September.)
âWe haven’t made an appointment. We limited the number of people in the building for the first week, but we quickly realized that the building didn’t even come close to that capacity, so we pretty quickly gave that up, âFleming said. Everyone is required to wear a mask, whether or not they are vaccinated. âWe are a library system that tries not to say no to people if we can and we also try to provide services in the best possible way so that they appear to be unnecessary restrictions. ”
Meeting rooms remain closed for now as staff members work to upgrade audiovisual equipment and develop a better scheduling system. For the record, Fleming said the number of patrons visiting the library was down from visits before the pandemic, although he had noticed a slight increase in the past two weeks. Some people are reluctant to return due to concerns about the coronavirus and, as Fleming noted, a good chunk of their clients cannot be vaccinated because they are under 12 years old. The children’s programs took place outside.
As patrons returned, Fleming said they didn’t miss using the library’s computers. They failed to walk through the rows of books.
âI heard a lot of people say that this was something they missed a lot during the pandemic,â he said.
The Howe Library in Hanover reopened for appointments in early July and plans to reopen for drop-ins in early August. The biggest challenge will be cutting back on the library’s take-out services, said Rubi Simon, director of the Howe. Between print materials and e-books, the library publishes an average of 11,000 articles per month.
âWe hope to make the transition,â said Simon. All of the library’s meeting rooms are used by staff members to sort and compile articles. “We assume that once we open there will be fewer take-out requests.”
Visitors will need to wear masks, whether or not they are vaccinated. In-person programs are expected to return, but much of this will depend on client needs.
âIt will also depend on the community and their level of comfort. We are very sensitive to the fact that 12 and under are not yet vaccinated, âsaid Simon. âThis is a large group of our users in the building that we need to be aware of. ”
Like the Howe, the Enfield Public Library is not open to visitors. Instead, officials are asking people to call before they drop by in case there are clients who have made appointments and are uncomfortable sharing the 3,000 square foot space.
âWe haven’t had an overwhelming date request so often people call and say ‘may I come in? And we say ‘we’re open now, come in,’ said librarian Melissa Hutson. Clients who book an appointment often have young children who cannot be immunized. “We are finding that there are more people than expected who are not ready to come back.”
Staff members wear masks, but leave it up to customers to decide what they are comfortable with. The library, which reopened on June 1, is also looking to fill two part-time positions.
âLike many people, we have had staff retired due to the pandemic,â Hutson said. âThese jobs are posted, but we know what hiring looks like right now. Everyone is looking for people at the moment.
The Norwich Public Library also reopened in early June, starting with appointments for its upstairs section for adults and the section for children, which is in a large room in the basement.
The library now allows free access to users, who do not need an appointment.
âDating turns some people off. It seems to be a barrier for some people, âsaid Deputy Director Lisa Milchman. “Once we opened itâ¦ I think people felt more comfortable going in.”
Everyone is required to wear a mask at Norwich Library, regardless of their immunization status. The meeting room space, located in the basement, is currently closed as staff work on its redesign, but the goal is to make it available to community groups after Labor Day. This is when staff library managers also aim to start organizing in-room programs. Currently, programs for children and adults have been held in the Norwich Library Garden. Customers have expressed a desire for staff to continue with virtual programs, and staff are working to find a hybrid model that allows for online and in-person participation.
âIt gradually got busier,â Milchman said. “I don’t think we’re that close to the visits we had before the pandemic, but I think with each week it seems to pick up a bit.”
Librarians all agreed that some version of take-out or curbside services would continue as they have proven so popular during the pandemic.
âIt has been very busy for us,â Hutson said, adding that Enfield library staff collected 180 take-out bags in June, the same number as in May when it remained closed. âIt is still a very popular service. ”
Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.