Book ’em: Dover library set reopening for August

The city of Dover is expected to hold a soft opening of the Dover Public Library on Aug. 3 with a grand reopening scheduled for later in August amid the COVID-19 crisis. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Getting a facility the size of the Dover Public Library all cleaned up amid all the safety protocols that have been put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic is quite a challenge.

But the city of Dover believes it is up to it.

During Tuesday night’s virtual Council of the Whole meeting, Dover Assistant City Manager Matt Harline and interim library director Patricia Crosby told the Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee that they are prepared for a soft opening of the Dover Public Library on Aug. 3 or Aug. 10, with the grand opening set for later that month.

“I will say that making the library ready for opening after COVID, and also for addressing some of the concerns that we had when we shut the facility down on March 14th, has presented some challenges,” Mr. Harline said. “I would encourage you to move that soft opening to August 3rd.

“The reason is it will give us a chance to coordinate with Sunstate Securities, our security detail under the state contract. They schedule two weeks out (for their employees), so giving us another week from this meeting will help a lot.”

The Dover Public Library closed on March 14 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure was in part due concern for public health, but there were also public safety concerns.

In the four months since the library closed, numerous physical renovations and policy changes have been implemented to clean the library to reduce the chance of spreading disease and to improve the safety of the facility’s patrons.

Library employees and city staff have conducted a deep cleaning of the library and the entire front area has been rearranged with a reduction in clutter.

Upon the library’s reopening social distancing will be required, as well as face masks. Waiting lines in front of circulation, public service desks and public printers were marked with X’s at six-foot intervals. New signs were created for physical distancing, hygiene, etc. Half of the computer terminals have been disabled and plexiglass shields will be in use at circulation and public service desks.

Enforcement against sleeping and eating will also be enforced and, of the computers that remain in service, library staff will be instituting a 60-minute limit at the computer per session and 90 minutes per day.

In the name of public safety, additional electronic Pro-Watch electronic access panels have been added to the library’s bathrooms to allow staff and security guards to quickly access the restrooms in emergency situations.

Additional cameras and monitors have been installed indoors by Advantech that allow the security guard and the library director to view the interior and exterior cameras live or search recorded information. Over the next month, the feed should be directly available to the Dover Police Department. Advantech also completed a seamless 360-degree view of the library exterior.

Several secluded areas, originally designed to provide patrons with quiet and privacy, have also been sealed up to become closets or private study rooms requiring a key from the circulation desk.

Patricia Crosby came on as the library’s interim director at the end of January and has helped oversee many of the changes, such as virtual programming, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I did want to say that for a job it has been a pleasure and an honor working in Dover,” Ms. Crosby said. “The staff here has been fantastic and working with all the other department heads has been great. A couple of main points that I want to address is I mentioned there have been a lot of people involved in the process of the whole COVID process and the whole getting the library ready for some of the other renovations.

“A major, major thanks to all the staff at the Dover Public Library. It’s unprecedented times for all of us in every walk of life no matter what we’re doing or experiencing, and I just wanted to say that this teamwork from the staff here at the library has been amazing. I really have been honored and humbled to work with them and they have created an awesome environment for this library.”

There will be some big changes for the library’s patrons when the soft opening occurs.

From Monday until Saturday, the building will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then will be closed for cleaning by staff from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., during which time curbside delivery/pick-up will remain available. The library will reopen to patrons from 3 until 6 p.m. During this time, public meeting rooms will remain closed except for city functions.

Public meeting rooms will be available at a 60-percent capacity during the library’s grand reopening later in August.

Mr. Harline said the library will resume passport service Tuesday through Saturday when U.S. Department of State begins issuing passports for non-emergency. The passport service will be by appointment only. Job Center services will resume when the state is ready.

“I just want to say that Patricia Crosby has done a fantastic job coming in,” said Mr. Harline. “About two months after she got here, we shut down the whole facility and she’s been kind of the lead, with a lot of guidance from (City Manager) Donna Mitchell and cooperation with a lot of other departments.”

When the state is moved to Phase 3 in its reopening plan, the library expects to resume a regular schedule of Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 7:55 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4:55 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4:55 p.m. Room reservations will then allowed to return to full capacity.

“We’re following the governor’s directives for all the safety and security for the health of our staff and all of our security members,” Ms. Crosby said. “We want to be mindful that they’re very gradual, very challenging steps, so we just wanted to be able to do this in stages so we’re not doing too much too soon, but also being mindful that we’re providing those services.”

Library staff have learned some lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic that it plans on continuing upon reopening, such as curbside service. Online programming started in early June and the library is likely to continue it as a hybrid in-person/on-line offering in the future.

“Hopefully, some of the things like the virtual programming and some of the new ideas for programming will be continued in the future as well so we can serve a lot more people in different formats,” said Ms. Crosby.

The library will welcome new Director Brian Sylvester and the new Assistant Director Megan Johnson next Monday.

“I want to thank the library staff and Mrs. Mitchell for very positive revisions that I think will provide better sightlines, better security, cameras signed in to the police department as well as local, and I think when they reopen it’s going to be a place where people who haven’t been in a while will want to check out,” said David Anderson, chairman of the Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee.

Not all the committee members were 100 percent onboard with the library’s reopening.

“We’re asking our employees to head back to work and take some sort of risk, maybe I’m the only one, but I can’t help but notice that we’re still having our (city council) meetings online and we’re asking our employees to come back to work in some semblance or some function,” said Councilman Matt Lindell, who represents the 1st District.

“Usually, to be a good leader, you lead from the front and it seems like we’re asking our employees to go back to work but we’re still having our meetings online and not in person. I think we should just dismiss employees’ issues when it comes to concerns about their safety and going back to work, even if they think it’s premature to go back.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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