Letter from the Director: Library recovery and resiliency plan

As you know, the Library has been closed to the public since March 14 due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. While our doors have been closed, our staff is working hard to provide services to the best of their ability during these unusual circumstances.

You may have participated in one of our live online events, checked out an eBook, or contacted us for assistance over the phone or email. Besides offering these virtual services, we also are working hard on a recovery and resiliency plan to support us in reopening our 42 facilities.  

Planning for Re-Opening 

This recovery and resiliency plan will guide us as the pandemic evolves and we are allowed to begin providing in-person services. We will follow the lead of state and local government and health officials, and anticipate that a phased approach to re-opening is the best option. 

While state and local resources have informed our plan, we also look forward to the information that will come out of a recently announced partnership , opens a new windowbetween the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Battelle (nonprofit applied science and technology in Columbus), and OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) to support the curation and development of information on how to handle materials, training, and cleaning in support of safely reopening and sustaining operations under a COVID-19 reality.  

A phased approach is needed to address capacity issues; however, it also will help us be agile so that we can quickly ramp up or scale back services, depending on whether the pandemic abates or flares up again. As Dr. Amy Acton, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, has stated, we are going slow now so we can go fast later. 

Drive-Thru Service 

We anticipate that an early step in bringing back in-person services is opening our drive-thru windows so that community members can begin borrowing physical materials again. The safety of our community members and staff is our priority. There are many logistics we are working through to ensure that we will be able to do this as safely as possible.

Unfortunately, there is much we do not know with absolute certainty right now, including how long the virus can live on surfaces, such as books or DVD cases. We are learning all we can to help us come up with the best plan for opening drive-thru service, possibly before the end of May.  

Curbside Service  

We also anticipate reviewing the opportunities for reinstituting curbside pickup at several of our locations. This is a service we offered prior to the pandemic and we are building on our existing knowledge to begin to offer this opportunity to our customers again. 

We plan to implement curbside service in some form sooner rather than later, at least at some locations, as we move to reinstate services to our community. Several of the same safety considerations that impact drive-thru service also impact curbside, most notably how long the virus lives on various surfaces including library materials. 

Physical Facilities 

As the pandemic continues to run its course, we are working to determine options for opening locations for use by the public. Just as Gov. DeWine speaks about the need for a physical distancing plan before reopening things like restaurants, we also are working on a plan for how to achieve physical distancing in our facilities.  

However, while physical distancing is in place, it may simply not be possible to have staff and customers inside our smallest facilities or facilities where it is difficult to provide realistic ways to keep physical distancing as a priority. So, when we begin to reopen our facilities, this too, will happen in stages. Hours will likely need to be adjusted in order to allow time for cleaning and sanitizing for the benefit of both our community members and staff. 

Meetings, Events, and Programs 

We know that community members of all ages like to attend and participate in activities that we host at our locations, including everything from storytime to talks with award-winning authors. These activities also are being phased back in as restrictions are lifted on the maximum size of public gatherings. 

In-person activities that involve smaller groups, such as book clubs, may be restarted sooner than large events. We intend to continue offering online programs and storytimes as we move forward, in part because of the need for physical distancing but also because our customers have told us they enjoy them. 

Ready for What Lies Ahead 

Determining when we bring back the in-person services mentioned above depends on many variables that are beyond our control.  The plan we are working on acknowledges that and builds in flexibility so that we will be able to respond to whatever may occur.  

While there is much we do not know at this time, we do know that we will reopen again to the community in stages and in different, new, innovative ways, and that the safety of our community members and staff will remain our priority.   

We plan to share a summary of the major elements of the plan with the public when it is finalized and use it to guide our decision-making regarding reopening our facilities. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to use our virtual resources and services and I thank you for your support, patience and resiliency. We will get through this together. 

For the latest Library service updates, visit our Library Restart page