The Southwest Public Libraries are celebrating a successful campaign for the renewal of the system’s 10-year, 1-mill levy and library patrons may soon be celebrating, too, with a partial reopening of the Grove City and Westland Area libraries.

“We’re having a lot of discussions back and forth about that right now,” SPL director Mark Shaw said April 30. “We’re like every other business, we have to weigh the safety of our staff and patrons vs. our desire to reopen and begin offering our services again.”

One issue that will influence the timeline for reopening is the result of a joint project by the Battelle Memorial Institute, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Online Computer Library Center to study how long the COVID-19 coronavirus lives on different types of library materials, Shaw said.

SPL and other central Ohio public library systems are working to coordinate a plan for each to reopen, he said.

The libraries are part of the Central Library Consortium, a group of 17 public libraries based in central Ohio that share services and offer patrons access to a pool of books, DVDS, record albums and other materials.

“We will likely have to have a quarantine period for library materials, including the items that patrons will be returning to us, before we can begin to recirculate those items,” Shaw said.

“If I had to guess, I would think we would be able to reopen for curbside service by mid to late May,” he said. “We’ll be opening in phases.”

The curbside service would allow patrons to check out materials and pick them up from library staff members in the library parking lot, Shaw said.

Public access to the library buildings might be available sometime in June, but programs and services would be limited, he said.

“We wouldn’t be having public programs and activities for a while because we don’t want to do anything that would involve public gatherings that could help spread the virus,” Shaw said.

The libraries plan to hold virtual activities and performances for the 2020 summer reading club, he said.

The SPL board of trustees will likely be considering at its May meeting whether to reduce staff hours, although it’s not expected to furlough or lay off staff members, Shaw said.

“We have instituted a hiring freeze and we aren’t replacing anyone who is retiring,” he said.

No new library materials have been purchased since the library closed on March 14, Shaw said, and the amount of materials to be purchased is likely to be reduced once the libraries reopen.

“We’re estimating that we’re going to see a reduction of 20% or 25% in the amount of state funding we’re receiving,” he said. “It’s all the more reason we’re grateful for the support we received from the community for our levy.”

Voters appear to have soundly approved the renewal of the levy in unofficial results announced for Ohio’s delayed primary election.

The unofficial results posted April 29 by the Franklin County Board of Elections show the issue was approved 9,953 votes to 3,740 votes or 72.69 % to 27.31%.

The primary election was delayed from its original March 17 date because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and was completed by mailed-in absentee ballots, early in-person voting or voters dropping off ballots at county boards of elections by 7:30 p.m. April 28.

Mail-in ballots posted marked by April 27 and received by May 8 will be counted with the official results, according to Aaron Sellers, spokesman for the board of elections.

Issue 20 was a renewal of a library levy voters approved in November 2010.

The 2010 levy was the library system’s first ballot measure. It will expire at the end of this year and the renewal will take effect Jan. 1.

The effective millage of the renewal will be 0.89 mills, Shaw said. MIllage is reduced when property values increase, which has occurred over the last decade.

The levy will continue to provide about $2.5 million or about 37% of the library’s annual operating income, he said. The Public LIbrary Fund from the state of Ohio provides most of the rest of the library’s funding.

Under the renewal, a residential property owner will continue to pay $27.26 annually per $100,000 of the appraised value, Shaw said. The levy will not increase taxes.

Since the original levy’s passage in 2010, a new Grove City Library was built in partnership with the city at 3959 Broadway and the Westland Area Library at 4740 W. Broad St. in Columbus was improved with with new meeting space and an expanded youth-services area.

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