In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio public libraries, including Carnegie Public Library in Washington C.H., were granted government assistance funds to offset equipment and supplies designed to protect patrons and staff from the virus.
The Ohio Controlling Board, which includes Senator Bob Peterson, authorized the funds to be granted to Ohio public libraries. The original source of this relief is the U.S. Treasury Department’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“We prioritized spending on those necessary and sometimes hard to get items including masks, hand sanitizer, plexiglass and disinfectant,” explained Carnegie Public Library Director Sarah Nichols. “As a public building, we are making every effort to keep high touch surfaces disinfected throughout the day. We get a great deal of foot traffic – even with reduced hours, and we want to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
The library then began examining daily practices and protocol greatly impacted by the virus to determine what improvements could be made to increase efficiency and safety now and into the future. To aid in the touchless exchange of library materials, the library purchased large, mobile book bins to quarantine returned items, a drive-up book drop for safe and easy returns, the material to build several Little Free Libraries, and a set of outdoor book pick-up lockers to be installed in early 2021.
To help facilitate distance learning and those working from home or applying for jobs and assistance, the library purchased a new WiFi access point to improve the signal in the library’s parking lot along with laptops for curbside use at the library.
The library building closed to the public in March in response to Governor Mike DeWine’s Stay-at-Home order and guidance from the Ohio Library Council (OLC).
In June, the library opened with abbreviated hours and continued operating with this schedule until Oct. 9 when Fayette County was designated a Public Health Risk Level 3 (red) by the Ohio Department of Health. However, activity at the library, both in person and virtually, has remained steady throughout the pandemic.
Librarians have created virtual content including interviews, educational videos and storytimes to share through the library’s social media. Also popular is the library’s “Take & Make” crafts for children and adults which are available by curbside pick-up.
The library began and has continued Curbside Service Since June. Patrons can pull into the library parking lot and pick up materials ordered by phone or online. Books, magazines and DVDs from the library shelves and from the library’s expansive SEO Consortium are prepared for patrons daily.
The process (which is safe for library staff and patrons) includes a minimum of a three-day quarantine of borrowed materials. Recently, the library expanded curbside services by adding faxing, scanning, printing and laptop use.
“I really thought we would be reopening to our full hours come November,” said Nichols. “That was my greatest hope. Not just for library users and staff, but also our community. Like all of us, I was devastated to see the numbers in our county climbing daily. I felt strongly that we needed to exercise the greatest amount of caution. While our building may not be open to the public, the use of library materials and services is safe. We are very fortunate and grateful to have received the CARES Act funds to make this possible.”