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Local libraries work to continue offering their services via new and adjusted ways


By Becky Tang, Staff Reporter

Local libraries that once served as spaces for community members to gather and collect information now look and feel much different with new developments such as Plexiglass shields, moved bookshelves, and contactless pickup.

In March, all public libraries of the Chester County Library System (CCLS) were forced to shut down until their reopenings on June 25. Special events at libraries, like meet-and-greets with authors and storytimes, are now organized virtually by librarians through Zoom conference calls or the Live feature on Instagram. 

Chris Kibler, Director of Tredyffrin Township Libraries, reflected that the move to virtual activities made it hard for events centered on community participation.

“Everything’s virtual at this point. It was kind of a difficult transition because very few public libraries actually offered a kind of the digital component of virtual programming,” Kibler said.

Paoli Library Branch Manager, Beverly Michaels, looks positively towards the new environment and feels that online events also provide an opportunity for people from all over the country to join in on one session.

“I feel like this (process) has been making lemonade out of lemons,” Michaels said.

Checking out books has switched to a process of scheduled contactless, curb-side pickups. If a selected book is not available in a particular library, CCLS has implemented van delivery services that will take the book to a member’s designated location. 

Freshman Anika Kotapolly, who used the pickup service at Easttown Public Library, found it smooth and efficient.  

“(The process) was super easy, no stress. And I liked it, it’s nice to get up and go pick up some books,” Kotapolly said.

Due to concerns about borrowing physical books, the use of e-books and audiobooks skyrocketed, setting record numbers for the libraries. A new app available on most Apple devices, called Chester County Library System, allows users to browse the library catalog, access eMaterials and databases, as well as schedule curbside pickups. 

The increased use of e-books, which become unavailable automatically after the due date, has resulted in a decreased amount of money earned by the library from overdue fines. Ranging from 1 to 4 dollars per week of overdue fines, the sum of money earned by the fines has significantly decreased, causing libraries to find alternative sources of revenue.

“In our budget, there’s a line for income from fines. It’s way down, because we were closed. And because people are using ebooks, we’re going to have to replace that money from somewhere else,” Michaels said.

Community members can also visit libraries to browse materials and use computers with a scheduled time for up to 45 minutes at Tredyffrin and Paoli Public Libraries, and 20 minutes at Easttown Public Library. 

Although the visiting period at a library may be short, freshman Opal Jawale feels that it is one thing she is comfortable with.

“The process now is as good and convenient as it can get (…) It’s reassuring that I can still use the library the way I used to, just with more precautions,” Jawale said.

To reduce the risk of transmission, library staff removed all comfortable furnishings to discourage people from staying too long and reduced the number of computers to manage social distancing. Disinfectants are sprayed every half an hour and computers are cleaned with antiseptic wipes after each use.

Some bookshelves at Easttown Public Library have also been moved to provide more space for browsers to maintain distance. At the Paoli Library, a Plexiglass shield was also built around the circulation desk.

“For those people who stayed hours at a time, (they) have really basically lost the use of a library for the way they used to use it (…) the people who used to practically live here don’t have that anymore,” said Michaels.

Libraries are also operating on modified hours with the Tredyffrin and Paoli Public Library open in the afternoon on Monday through Thursday, and open Friday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. by appointment only. Contactless pickup is available from 5 – 7 p.m., Monday to Thursday, at Tredyffrin Library. Paoli Library’s non-contact pickup is from 1 -7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 1- 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

There are discussions of expanding library hours and hosting both virtual and in-person events in the future as all library staff, including Alan Silverman, Director of Easttown Public Library, seek to maintain connections with the community.

“The pandemic isn’t something that we can have a conversation with or argue with,” Silverman said, “so while it’s sad to see that we’re not able to provide the services that we normally provide, the flip side is we are very pleased to be able to provide the services that we are providing safely.” 

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