By ERIN ROLL
Following a seventh-month closure due to the pandemic, the Montclair Public Library will open on Monday, Oct. 19, with some limitations.
Whereas services were limited to pickups and dropoffs since June 22, come Monday patrons can go back into the building and browse on the first floor only, or place online book requests and pick them up inside using the self-checkout machines. Visits will be limited to 30 minutes. Computer use is still off-limits.
“We’re going to slowly roll out different services as staff and customers get re-acclimated to the building,” Library Director Peter Coyl said.
Hours will be 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; Tuesday 12 – 7 p.m.; Saturday10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Sunday closed.
The library will continue to offer curbside pickup for items, but those hours will be scaled back so staff can focus on getting the building back up and running, Coyl said.
The first floor houses adult fiction, YA fiction, DVDs and CDs. The nonfiction and reference sections on the second floor and the children’s section on the third floor will remain closed.
Seating areas will also be closed off.
Coyl said the library hopes to reopen access to computers once staff sets up plexiglass barriers and have the computers disinfected in between uses.
The library closed March 14, with patrons who had books checked out at the time of the closing given an extended loan period until June 14.
Although the Bellevue Avenue branch has held some outdoor storytimes for children and their families, the building there will remain closed. It still offers returns through its outside slots.
Libraries were given permission to reopen their buildings starting on July 2 and area library reopenings have varied.
The Glen Ridge Public Library opened over the summer, with some limitations on services. The children’s room is open to only four children at a time, by appointment only, while access to the second and third floors is on a first-come, first-served basis, and patrons may stay for no longer than 30 minutes.
The Bloomfield Public Library is still only offering curbside pickup only. At the Verona Public Library, patrons may use a study table or a computer for one hour, with browsing limited to 30 minutes.
Montclair library staff said they needed time to work out the logistics of reopening.
The New Jersey State Library advised libraries to have a written plan for a staged reopening, approved by each library’s board of trustees and vetted by the local board of health.
Library circulation dropped significantly during the closure.
“It’s significantly less. It’s depressingly less,” Coyl said.
Between January and September, patrons checked out 121,754 physical items, more than half of what was checked out during that same time last year. However, Coyl said eBCCLS content, such as audiobooks and eBooks, have doubled with 45,073 electronic items checked out between January and September, up from 26,918 last year.
With building capacity limited, the library will not be holding indoor in-person events for the foreseeable future. In addition, the auditorium will be used as a quarantine area for returned items. Returned books must be quarantined for four days before they can be returned to circulation.
Coyl said that virtual events, like Open Book, Open Mind, have been very popular with the public, and he expected that online events will continue for some time even after the library reopens.
“I would say that we are, like most people, excited to get back to a sense of normalcy,” Coyl said. “We’re excited to be back in the building, see customers and help people, and that’s what we’re here for.”
Library rules when visiting:
- A limited number of people will be allowed in the building at any given time. For those dropping in to pick up holds or to browse, be prepared to wait on the Plaza if the building is at capacity.
- Customers may use the restroom and fill their water bottles while in the building, but drinking from the fountain is unavailable at this time.
- One-way foot traffic: enter through the front doors, exit through the side (cafe) doors
- Face coverings and social distancing required
- Hand sanitizer stations available throughout the Library
- It is not possible for us to provide seating at this time.
- Eating and drinking are not allowed in the Library at this time.