Book Drops and Plans for Expanded Services

YOUNGSTOWN (June 17, 2020/For Immediate Release) – Planning continues for expansion of services at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Beginning today, book and media drop boxes will again be available at all libraries and materials can be returned.

“As we move forward to expand services, we are working hard to balance exceptional customer service with the safety of our patrons and staff by following the guidelines put out by the Governor’s office,” said Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek.

The Library expects a high volume of returns with book and media drops back in place this week. Patrons are asked to place library materials directly into the book or media drop box, but cautioned not to leave materials outside the box if it is full. Library cardholders are responsible for damages to materials checked out on their card. All returned items will be quarantined for four days, after which, materials will be checked in so that others may safely borrow them. There will be no late fees; the due date for anything borrowed prior to March 16  has been extended to  August 6.  Patrons should be aware that returned items may not be reflected in patron records immediately due to quarantine and processing time.

“Thank you for your patience as we are all moving through this new reality where cautious steps are needed to ensure the safety of our staff and patrons,” Ms. Fifarek said. “We must take precautions when considering in-building service, as libraries are gathering places and used by the most vulnerable populations, such as seniors, young children, people in poverty who are also prone to underlying disease. The country has seen massive spikes in COVID-19 cases in states that opened much faster than Ohio. We are choosing to move ahead more slowly and with an abundance of caution.”

“Many may not understand the complexities of reopening libraries, as we do not fall into the same categories as many businesses and organizations,” Ms. Fifarek continued. Because of the many different types of services libraries provide, to safely reopen, libraries have to follow not one, but multiple sets of guidelines, such as: child care (after school), banquet halls (meeting rooms), entertainment (programming), offices (public computers), and retail (collection browsing).  Another consideration is staffing capacity given that about one-fourth of Library staff is on voluntary furlough under the CARES Act.

What the Library Has Done So Far

Many library services continued without interruption and several have been added since library buildings closed March 16, including:
– virtual programming, including Summer Discovery
– reference services
– audiobooks, e-books, movies and music
– online databases
– WIFI signals boosted to allow public use of the Internet from Library parking lots
– Curbside Pickup at Main Library, Austintown, Boardman and Canfield branches, getting physical materials into the hands of library patrons
– Pop-Up Library service at remote locations
– Special Delivery service, providing materials to qualifying disabled patrons

“Over the last two months, 58 staffers have done more than 250 online programs, on topics ranging from book talks to crafts programs to standard and bilingual storytimes,” said Ms. Fifarek.  “The 571 posts staff created on four different social media platforms were viewed a combined 891,198 times. And since starting phone service on March 26, staff working from home have answered more than 1,500 calls. Remote reference started on April 15 and librarians answered more than 400 reference questions by the end of May.”

What the Library Is Planning 

She noted, “We are currently planning how we can allow limited access to our buildings for services such as computer/Internet use and printer copier use in early July, workforce development uses, and essential partner projects like blood drives and tax preparation. Mass gathering restrictions remain in place, so we are unable to offer meeting room space, face-to-face programming or traditional library ‘reading room’ activities. We plan to open more locations when our staff on voluntary furlough is back at work in August.”

“We want to express our sincere thanks to our community for their love of libraries and for their patience. We love our patrons, as well, and cannot wait until we can welcome you all back into our libraries again,” said Ms. Fifarek.

For more information, go to https://www.libraryvisit.org/service-roadmap/

See Open Letter from the Library Executive Director https://www.libraryvisit.org/letter-from-director/

# # #