BY JESSICA CARRUBA
With Long Island firmly in Phase Four of reopening, the Levittown Public Library has reached another step in its own reopening plans. Beginning July 20, the library building is now open for Browse and Go, allowing patrons to enter the beloved building for the first time since March 13, when doors closed to help combat COVID-19. Balancing the safety of staff and the public with the needs of a community eager for a new sense of normalcy and connection has weighed heavy on the minds of library administrators. Multiple steps have been taken to ensure that the gradual opening of the building will be done as safely as possible.
Library Director Trina Reed said, “As we all navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, we try to provide the highest level of library service that we can do safely within the guidelines from New York State. I look forward to the day it is safe to resume full services to our community.”
As with other establishments, the inside of the Library will look different when patrons visit for the first time since the pandemic began. Partitions have been placed around all public desks and between public computer terminals, though computer use is not yet available to patrons.
Signage reminds guests to maintain at least six feet of space between one another, with floor arrows directing the flow of traffic to help ensure distance between browsers. Masks or face coverings must be properly worn by everyone 2 years of age and over while on library property.
Due to current building occupancy mandates related to the pandemic, guests are asked to keep their browsing to an hour so others have the opportunity to come inside.
LPL To Go, the library’s contactless pickup service that began in June, is still available, even
for those who hold cards from other libraries in Nassau County. LPL To Go was the first step in getting physical library materials back into the hands and homes of patrons. Anyone who prefers contactless pickup can call, email, chat, or reserve materials online. Once the requested items are gathered, patrons are notified by library staff and an appointment time for pickup is scheduled. All materials must still be returned to either the outdoor book drop or the bin located in the lobby; materials are put through a quarantine period before they are handled by staff.
The response to LPL To Go has been overwhelmingly positive, with the service recently
reaching and since surpassing the benchmark of 1,500 checkouts. Laura, Head of Circulation, says she and her staff have witnessed the gratitude and excitement of patrons both in person and over the phone. According to her, “The patrons have been very happy with the contactless pick-up, as well as the Browse and Go services we are offering. Some appreciate the convenience and the safety of the contactless pick-up, while others are thrilled to come in and browse the shelves.”
Though programming will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, staff continue to find new ways of engaging the public. Virtual programs have been a hit with all ages. Everything from lectures and live trivia games to hands-on crafts and magic shows have kept staff and patrons connected. In fact, the switch to virtual has allowed for experiences otherwise inaccessible, like a Zoom interview with acclaimed author Liz Moore, based in Philadelphia, and an engineering workshop for teens led by a programmer in Upstate New York.
In the Young Adult Department, librarians have recorded the lecture portions of live programs and uploaded them to their website. All departments make use of the Levittown Public Library’s YouTube channel to share tutorials, storytimes, food and exercise programs, and more. Seeing the friendly faces of staff was a welcoming sight for faithful Library users, especially during the height of quarantine.
When its first storytime video was posted on social media while staff was still working from
home, the LPL’s Facebook page was flooded with excited comments from regulars. The most frequent? Thank you and We miss you. The gratitude goes both ways. Library employees are appreciative of the continued patience shown by patrons as everyone does their best to navigate this new normal smartly and safely.
Jessica Carruba is a children’s librarian at the Levittown Public Library, where she develops and conducts various children’s programs, and also writes the library’s blog, Checking the Shelf.