When will the James Blackstone Library Reopen?
The Blackstone Library continues to work toward a full reopening, following the guidelines and requirements set forth by the Governor’s Office. We are carefully considering the needs of our community, the expectations of our patrons, and our building’s capacity to ensure a safe place for staff and visitors. The Governor’s requirements for re-opening call for the Blackstone Library to meet each of the following requirements:
- Adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for staff; visitors must wear masks and sanitizer must be provided for visitors
- Assurance that capacity – the number of persons – may not exceed 50%
- Possible limits on the amount of time visitors can spend in a library
- Appointments for use of computers or study rooms
- Redesign or suspension of events that bring in large groups
- Redesign or adaptation of places where people interact face-to-face, such as check-out desks or reference services
- Regular disinfection of shared surfaces multiple times during each work day, with documentation for cleaning of restrooms
The Blackstone Library is eager to return to the full range of personal services provided before the COVID-19 health and safety emergency declaration. We are now challenged by the need to make radical changes that will significantly alter how we serve our community. As we work to reopen, we continue to offer help by phone and e-mail, contactless pickup of materials, and a wide range of new virtual programming. We continue to monitor safety guidelines and look for opportunities to provide exemplary library service to the community.
FAQs about the Blackstone Library & COVID-19
1. When did the library close the building to the public?
By Friday, March 13, most libraries in CT were closed to the public. With the realization that morning that libraries in the towns surrounding Branford were closing for an indefinite period in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the library director consulted with the Board President, First Selectman and Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library Director before closing the Blackstone Library. Other Town buildings and public schools also announced they were closing to the public on that date. The Town Hall closed to the public on March 19.
2. Staff worked throughout the COVID period:
- We assisted patrons by phone.
- We continued to purchase, process and maintain materials for the collection.
- We transitioned all of our programs to zoom, which required a learning curve and coordination with our presenters.
- Our book drop is always open and staff kept up with returns and shelving.
- Bills continued to be received and paid and the board of trustees continued its work remotely.
- Our custodian deep cleaned the building and was able to get a head start on planned maintenance projects.
- We increased access to electronic materials and made WIFI available outside of the building.
- Library Trustees and the Town’s First Selectman received weekly updates
- Library staff began sending weekly emails to our patrons including COVID news and resources and advertising our new programs available through Zoom.
- We attended many Zoom meetings to discuss, learn and plan best practices to offer services safely.
3. When did the library partially open?
The Blackstone Library continued to provide services while the building was closed. We kept the book drop open and processed the returns, provided assistance by phone and zoom, and offered free WIFI in the parking lot. On May 20, the library began offering contactless pickup service. This was the first significant phase of the library beginning to return to “normal” service.
4. Today, what portions of the library are open to the public?
In addition to the services noted above, the computer lab, which includes scanning and photocopying, and the youth computers have been available to the public since July 13. On September 14, the library opened access to the stacks, reading room and study areas by appointment. Most patrons are focused on their safety and their overwhelming response has been a preference for remote, contactless service as much as possible.
5. Why did the library only partially open when the governor authorized libraries to be open?
The Blackstone Library worked closely with the Willoughby Wallace and Guilford Libraries to coordinate a reopening date, however, the Blackstone Library’s Board of Trustees meeting schedule was such that the Blackstone library opened one week later than WWML and Guilford. The Library’s Board of Trustees needed to be aware of potential issues and liabilities associated with reopening, and approve the library’s reopening plan. Each library in CT faces unique challenges in complying with the Governor’s guidelines for reopening. There are still libraries in our surrounding towns and on the shoreline that remain closed.
The Governor’s permission to open came with guidelines, which required the purchase of PPE, adoption of a strict cleaning protocol, and coordination with the East Shore Health District to put into place. Other parts of the country are suffering because they “opened” without sufficient safeguards. CT can be proud of its having so significantly reduced the impact of COVID with a phased reopening plan.
6. When will the library will be fully open?
The auditorium can reopen when repairs are completed. The work is projected to be complete by mid-October but this is subject to change. There is also additional work that needs to be done – ceiling painting and balcony enclosure – that has not been scheduled yet. The auditorium is also being used as a quarantine area for books that are returned. Our ability to open to full capacity will depend on containment of the COVID-19 virus and State guidelines.
8. How are other libraries responding?
Libraries in CT vary in the size and layout of their buildings, governance structure and population served. As of August 6th, approximately 50% of CT libraries remained closed, according to a weekly update circulated by the State Library. The other 50% re-opened their buildings for limited service, which for many was still book pickup only. As of August 19th, 35% of CT libraries were still closed.
As of September 11, there were still a number of CT libraries serving similar-sized and larger communities that have only recently started offering curbside pickup and have yet to open for computer access or other services.
9. What services are available now?
The Blackstone Library currently offers a wide selection of online resources, including e-books, audiobooks, streaming movies and music. Library cards are free and may be obtained online. Patrons may borrow books, dvds and other items by reserving them in advance and picking them up in the new entry – all materials are quarantined for 4 days when they are returned to eliminate the possibility of spreading the virus. WIFI is available at no charge in the parking lot and grounds. Computers with the MS Office Suite and internet access, scanning and copying service are available inside the library by appointment. We are constantly adding new programs for patrons to attend via Zoom – check our calendar and weekly emails for the latest details. Questions? Staff are here Monday – Thursday, 9am-8pm and Friday/Saturday 9am – 5pm to provide research and tech help.