CHATHAM — If you’ve been missing the experience of browsing for books or using other services at the Eldredge Public Library, your wait is almost over. Beginning Oct. 13, the Library will be open for limited, in-library services by appointment only.
Patrons must call 508-945-5170 to schedule a 30-minute appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They can browse books on the first floor only, in either the adult section or the youth section, but not both. A number of regular patrons also rely on the library for access to the internet.
“Some people need a computer to communicate with family,” Library Director Amy Andreasson said. “Or, these days, to apply for unemployment.” The copy machine and scanner will also be available for use.
Patrons are required to wear masks and asked to use hand sanitizer or gloves provided at sanitizing stations and to maintain social distancing, and are limited to one appointment per week. For 125 years, the library has striven to be a welcoming place where patrons can come and spend some time in peace, but for now, “unfortunately, we are not encouraging patrons to come in and stay,” she said.
The second floor, genealogy section, reference room, meeting spaces, quiet study areas and the basement book sale remain closed. There also won’t be newspapers or places for patrons to sit and read.
While the library looks expansive, the actual amount of floor space on the main level is limited, which limits the number of people who can safely be inside at any given time.
When the pandemic began, Eldredge Library staff worked feverishly to put as many resources online as possible, from programs and e-books to children’s activities and a summer reading program. The library has also been providing a curbside pickup system that allows patrons to request items by phone or online through their CLAMS catalog access. When the items are ready to be picked up, staff notify patrons who then come to the library foyer and find their items in labeled paper bags. Curbside pickup hours are from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10 to 4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
“It’s been going very well,” Andreasson said. Patrons are thankful for the curbside service, which has been a lifeline for many during the isolation of the pandemic. “But the library is more than just picking up items.”
The limited reopening has required a great deal of careful planning and logistical creativity, and Andreasson praised her staff for their perseverance and ability to innovate.
“It’s been a learning curve,” she said. “We’ve been anxious to get to this point.”
She also thanked the Friends of the Eldredge Public Library, which have provided funding for “lots of unexpected costs” during the pandemic, from masks and hand sanitizer to new informational signs. She also urged people to support the library trustees' annual fund drive, which is now ongoing.
The library continues to offer home delivery for homebound people, as it has always done. Increasingly, that service is being used by people who are at a high risk of complications from COVID-19 or who do not drive.
But for those who feel comfortable visiting, it’s important to call first, since walk-in appointments cannot be accommodated, she said. Patrons also need to understand the new rules designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including the traffic patterns throughout the building and the need to wipe down the computer keyboard and mouse after use. It’s also critical that people don’t arrive late for their 30-minute appointment, or they will have less time to browse books or use the computer.
“We want people to know what to expect when they come through that door,” she said. For details, call 508-945-5170.
Andreasson said she and her staff miss their regular interactions with patrons, and appreciate the “notes, emails, kind words, friendly waves during pickup, and conversations over the phone. It’s been hard on the staff not to offer business as usual, and it’s uplifting to know that our patrons support us and appreciate what we’re doing,” she said.
“We really miss connecting with our patrons on a daily basis, and hope that we can just keep moving forward,” Andreasson said.
This article has been corrected to reflect that the ongoing fundraiser is the library trustees' annual fund drive, not a campaign by the Friends of the Eldredge Public Library. We regret the error.