On April 23, there was a letter to the editor from a concerned community member asking the town of North Kingstown to consider reopening the library in order to give people a chance to obtain new materials to keep them company in quarantine. We wanted to let the community know that we hear you! It is devastating for libraries and library staff to not be open to the public during the current pandemic. We miss seeing everyone come into our building, and we are honored that so many view the library’s materials and services as essential.
Rest assured that library staff are hard at work putting plans into place to begin offering services to meet demand. In the letter on April 23, the author aptly describes a “drive-thru library” in which the public can request books to be picked up at pre-arranged time with minimal contact, while both parties wear personal protective equipment and maintain social distancing.
Before we can offer that type of service, we must first ensure that the library is sufficiently prepared for demand. This includes ample protective gear for staff and sanitization supplies to clean materials before passing them to the public as well as items returned to us. We must also follow state guidelines, especially as it comes to ensuring our building does not exceed maximum numbers for gathering in one place.
Library staff, administration, and town officials are also carefully balancing the desire to provide public services against stay at home orders in place from the governor. Additionally, we must consider how stockpiling materials to ensure safe procedure for services might impact the availability for front line staff in our local health facilities. In times like these, public safety must come first, and public safety begins with medical professional’s safety.
Once we have a clear procedure for offering services, such as curbside pick up, with thorough plans for obtaining supplies to keep library staff and the public safe in an ongoing manner, we will welcome our community back to our doors (one at a time, six feet apart, with protective gear on).
In the meantime, please know that the library remains committed to being there for our community in this time of crisis. We offer many digital options for borrowing books, movies, and music, doing family research through Ancestry.com, and much more, all accessible 24/7 with your library card. The state of Rhode Island offers even more freely accessible options to learn languages, read your favorite magazines, and learn new skills at AskRI.org.
Library staff are available Monday-Friday, 9:00 - 4:00 by phone or chat service on our website to help you understand and access these resources. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok, and subscribe to our email newsletter to keep up to date with what we offer.
Thank you to the town of North Kingstown for your continued support of our beautiful library. Until we are able to see you again in person, we hope you stay safe.
The writer is community outreach coordinator for the North Kingstown Free Library