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St. C. library is up and running

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city’s public library is open again, and has begun welcoming patrons Monday.

Library Director Doug Walsh said the public will have a slightly different experience as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and continue toward a return to normal. Visitors will notice some obvious changes such as clear plastic screens between the librarians and patrons, as well as a self-check-out option for library materials.

The screens and safeguards continue in the upper story, with partitions between computers for patrons needing access to the internet. Books taken from the shelves or returned are also scrupulously sanitized.

Another option is curbside service, where patrons call ahead and pick up their material at the alley behind the library.

“We are gradually opening,” Walsh said, adding he is working with the Ohio Library Council on several issues, such as how long coronavirus germs will last on materials such as books and DVDs.

One change is the inability to order material from other libraries in the state.

“(The Ohio Library Council) have put us in touch with what other libraries are doing, and that has helped us gage are we ready to open, and we have to coordinate that with other libraries.

For example we’re open now, but the materials we have for people to check out are just the materials that are in our library,” Walsh said.

He added 85 percent of libraries must be open and operating before shipping can resume.

“That hasn’t happened yet. In the next couple weeks, we’ll see. The Ohio Library Council estimates about 50 percent of libraries in the state will be opening to some extent, so shipping and sharing resources among libraries isn’t quite there,” he said.

Walsh said masks and social distancing are encouraged at the library. Masks are also offered to patrons without one.

“If they choose to wear it. We’re recommending it but not requiring it. All employees are required to wear a mask,” he said.

He said the libraries are awaiting recommendations from the state and health departments

“Libraries are about social interaction and in a very unique way compared to other organizations in our community. A lot of that means face-to-face, it means groups, it means children coming and their parents coming to storytimes for example, and all of that is still on-hold for us,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the library had not been idle during its weeks of closure, but continued to offer services to the community.

“Staff were occupied by providing virtual storytimes,” he said. “We have a technology trainer and he was holding live sessions and pre-recorded sessions on technology topics like our databases and how to use them.”

Walsh said lessons are offered for the use of mobile WiFi “hot spot” devices. He said they were valuable in helping students without home access continue to do their school work.

“We also extended our WiFi so people could park not only behind the library, but there’s also a couple of municipal lots behind the library, and our WiFi reach to those lots too,” Walsh said. “People can park around the library at all hours and have access to the internet that way.”

Walsh said patrons were overjoyed at being able to resume visiting the library.

“People have really been just grateful to get back into a library and experiencing a library. We had 65 people come in (Monday) our first day open,” he said. “That included families. That included people who wanted to read the newspapers here at the library, that included people who wanted to use our internet to print things,” he said. “Lots of people were browsing the library to get handfuls of books to take home with them, and all along while we were closed we were purchasing books, and those are available. Brand-new materials. … People are excited to have that available to them.”

The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the week, with the library closing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and closed on the weekends.

“Our hours are limited because we are needing extra time to clean and sanitize the library,” Walsh said.

The library is located at 108 West Main St. across from the courthouse.

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