Library staff

GARY BAND/The Warren Record

Warren County Memorial Library staff members gather on Sept. 21. Shown from left are Richard Smithey, David Spence, Tiffany Macklin, Cheryl Reddish, Catha Harrison, Gania Woods-Hudson, Sterling Cheston and Mary Bullock. Not pictured, Terry Alston.

After three months of being completely closed to the public, and three months of patrons not allowed beyond the lobby, the Warren County Memorial Library has reopened its doors as of Monday. 

Although it’s been more quiet there than usual since COVID-19 came to town, library staffers have been diligently engaged in delivering quality customer service all along to many of its more than 10,000 members. 

Whether it was for no-contact delivery, bagging up books reserved online and leaving them in the lobby for pick up, or countless calls for information about any number of research subjects, the staff maintained its standards and kept the county reading and informed all along.

Before COVID, an average of some 200 people visited the library per day. During the no-contact pickup days, that number dropped to an average of 30-50. 

Led for the past nine years by Director Cheryl Reddish, the library will now set about welcoming everyone back and offering different ways to enjoy and make the best use of the library. While the no-contact pickup option will remain in place, there will also be the quick check out, grab and go option as well as the opportunity to sit and read, work on a library computer and make use of the WiFi with a personal laptop or portable device. 

In order to maintain cleanliness and safety, patrons will be required to wear a mask upon entering the library and use hand sanitizer before touching any books or videos. Plastic shields have also been installed around the customer service counters and crews will clean three times a day. 

Regular operating hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and restrooms and computers will be closed daily from 11-noon for sanitizing. Returned books will need to be quarantined for four days before being available for checkout. 

“This is the way we all have to do it now,” said Reddish from her office, wearing a mask. 

Social distancing measures are also in place in terms of the spacing of tables and the number of chairs at each, namely one, with more available for families wishing to sit together. 

For those looking to do school work, Reddish says they are welcome to bring their laptops and stay all day. And when the building closes at 3, there is WiFi in the parking lot 24/7.

The state-of-the-art library built in 2009 also offers private space in the tutor rooms. And the community room offers more comfortable work or study space behind closed doors, and socially distanced of course. 

“We’re lucky we have leadership doing all they can to support students, parents and teachers,” Reddish said. 

And while everyone has adapted as best they could to the more virtual world created by COVID, Reddish said there’s nothing like talking to library patrons and looks forward to seeing many of them again, even if they must wear masks. 

“The most important thing is for everyone to feel safe and comfortable coming back,” she said. “We want to offer the best experience we can when they come in here. It’s all about serving our patrons.” 

It won’t be business as usual. But Reddish said she and the staff have and will continue to meet needs as best they can. They’ve long been rethinking how best to deliver services and attending training sessions by Zoom and webinars to keep apprised of best practices. 

“Everybody has different needs and everyone is important to us,” she said. “We have to have advanced hindsight and plan for unintended consequences.” 

But overall, Reddish said the most important thing is for people to want to come back. 

“We want everyone to know they’re welcome here. We’re so happy to see them again and help in any way we can. We want people to enjoy the library, feel comfortable and know we have the upmost concern for their safety.”