After being closed to the public for more than a year, New Castle County libraries will reopen in a limited capacity next week.
Each library will be open three days a week while continuing to offer curbside pick up on the other days.
“As difficult as this past year has been, we are very grateful to our patrons for their support of the services we were able to deliver during the pandemic,” said Diana Brown, manager of libraries for the county. “From implementation in mid-June through March, curbside delivery provided almost 700,000 items to patrons. Now, as we transition back to normal operations over the coming months, we look forward to seeing all the faces we have missed.”
On days the library is open, patrons will be able to browse for new books and DVDs, place and pick up holds and register for library cards. Building capacity will be limited, and each patron will be limited to 20 minutes inside.
Libraries will also offer public computer and printer use, with priority given to people without internet access at home. Those interested are encouraged to schedule an appointment in advance due to limited capacity.
All patrons will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing, and a security guard will be on duty to enforce the rules, county spokesman Brian Cunningham said.
The county has improved ventilation in the libraries and installed plastic shields where needed to maintain distance between people. Computer equipment will be cleaned between every use, and books and other materials will continue to be quarantined for 72 hours after being returned.
Meeting and study rooms will remain closed, and no in-person programming will be offered.
Cunningham referred to the plan as the first phase of reopening and noted that more in-person hours will be added as more library staffers receive vaccines. Approximately half of library employees have received their first dose so far, he said.
Libraries will continue to offer free Wi-Fi in their parking lots and will soon begin lending laptops and hotspots.
Curbside pickup, which began in June, is now available without an appointment. Patrons who place books and other items on hold can park outside the library during designated hours, call the library, and an employee will bring the items out. Patrons can also email documents to the library to be printed and picked up curbside.