Libraries are one of the many gathering locations closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now as New York moves through its reopening phases, libraries, too, are taking steps to …
Libraries are one of the many gathering locations closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now as New York moves through its reopening phases, libraries, too, are taking steps to bring back services that had been completely virtual.
Islip, East Islip and Bay Shore-Brightwaters public libraries are currently in Phase 2, which mainly features the ability for patrons to check out and also return books. As mandated by the state, all returned items are required to be quarantined for 72 hours before returning to the libraries’ shelves.
“All of those items will then be cleaned individually before they return to our shelves,” said Mary Schubart, director of Islip Public Library. “We have put a lot of protocols in place to ensure that the building and the materials are safe and acceptable for our public.
Patrons can call ahead to receive packages that an employee will send down a ramp.
“They will be pre-bagged and prechecked out,” said Schubart, who also said the library would appreciate that customers commit to a window of time to pick up.
Islip Public Library delayed its opening for curbside service until this week in order to work toward installing hospital-grade filters for the HVAC system.
“The recommendation was that we get a thorough cleaning of the system before we put those high-level filters on,” Schubart said.
The other two libraries have offered curbside service since early June. Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library has been loosely following the state’s phases, said Michael Squillante, its director.
“It has not been exact because we are still in the process of trying to find the proper personal protective equipment for our staff members and making physical changes inside our building to allow us to open the doors to our patrons in the future,” Squillante said, continuing on to provide examples of physical changes, like installing plexiglass at counters and removing seating.
East Islip Public Library allows patrons to make appointments to use computers. Guy Edwards, the library’s director, explained how the next phase will ease the restrictions.
“In Phase 3, we are going to open our doors to have limited seating and time limits,” Edwards said, continuing on to point out the necessity of easing restrictions in unison with neighboring libraries. “I do not want us to open and some of the neighboring libraries not to open because they feel they have a high concentration of people with the virus, and then we do not want those people to come to us and then infect.”
Additionally, Squillante said that he has not increased the amount of staff on at one time since June 8.
“We are doing much more of a baby-step approach,” he said. “I am having people basically come in and work about half the time of their regular shift and work from home about half the time.”
Currently, the libraries are allowed to have 50 percent of nonessential employees on shift compared to normal. Once Phase 3 is nailed in, the libraries are allowed to have 75 percent of nonessential employees on shift compared to normal. All three libraries expect Phase 3 to be underway between July 1 and the midpoint of the month.
West Islip Public Library did not reply to requests for an interview by press time.