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NorthEast-Millerton Library Director Rhiannon Leo-Jameson sorted through  items delivered during the COVID-19 closure. Photo submitted

Millerton library to reopen after COVID-19 closure

MILLERTON — Library lovers who have missed the chance to browse the stacks, heft a volume and take in the heady scent of ink on paper will have better days ahead as the NorthEast-Millerton Library re-opens to patrons, hopefully by Friday, June 26. The target date has been set by Library Director Rhiannon Leo-Jameson.

“Barring unforeseen circumstances,” a total of eight visitors at a time may schedule, either by email or preferably by phone, hour long appointments to locate books and other material and use the library’s equipment,” she said.

Operating in line with the state’s safety regulations, visitors will be required to wear face masks and practice social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be available as will the bathroom and kitchen sinks for hand washing.

Leo-Jameson said regular patrons will notice a number of changes that have been implemented thanks to a $2,804 grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s (BTCF) Northeast Dutchess Fund, which the library matched with its own funds.  

The grant, which would normally be used to help fund the summer music program, was changed by BTCF to ease monetary challenges resulting from the COVID-19 health crisis. 

In order to reopen, the library needed to reconfigure several areas, purchase additional furniture, provide shields, manage resulting electrical changes and acquire a number of additional e-resources, which are always quite expensive. 

Leo-Jameson said she has been “living with this for months” as she and staff members Kristin McClune and Louis Tomaino measured and brainstormed, trying to design a system that would allow for the safety of both staff and visitors. 

The library’s heart — the circulation desk — presented the initial challenge as a good deal of communication and work is traditionally centered in that small area. The solution involves Plexiglas shields, provided at a bargain rate and cut to size by Herrington’s, which will protect staff and patrons as well as volunteer workers when they, too, are allowed to return. Leo-Jameson said that after each transaction, the area will be cleaned using sanitizer.

Use of the circular computer stations opposite the desk will be limited to allow for appropriate spacing and the long desks against the wall will now feature computers only at each end with a printer in the middle and shields separating the users.

“If everything works out, we will still be down two computers,” Leo-Jameson explained, in part because of the new configurations but also because some of the current computers have “aged out” and the new systems, which were ordered before the pandemic, have not yet been delivered.    

At this point, Leo-Jameson sees the changes as “theoretical, because we’ve never done anything like this before. We’re trying to imagine how people will want to use the library the most and try to accommodate that.”

She noted that although “picture books are extraordinarily popular, we had to make some concessions,” which will not allow for browsing because the children’s section was needed to store fabric-covered furniture, which cannot be used because it cannot be properly cleaned. Instead, she said, “We will be pulling out the most popular items and making displays” with the books available for loan.

Children will continue to be welcomed, but Leo-Jameson said, “They will count toward the occupancy, and parents will be responsible for seeing that they follow the rules, which includes anyone over the age of 2 wearing a mask.”

She added that all programs, including those for children, will continue to be conducted online just as they were during the closure, with schedules available at www.nemillertonlibrary.org.

E-books and other electronic material was quite popular during that time, a trend that Leo-Jameson expects will continue, which is why an investment in that area was made. Periodicals will also be available, and because patrons may not stay to read them, issues may be borrowed.

Curbside pickup, which works best for the library staff, will continue. Books, which should be returned through the book drop, will be “quarantined for 72 hours after being deposited.” Interlibrary loans will start to be available this week. 

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