Amid staff pay reductions and furloughs, the Upper Arlington Public Library plans to reopen its main branch at 2800 Tremont Road on June 1.

Slowly, the UAPL is restoring services. On May 12, library officials began offering "contactless curbside pickup," a service being extended through May 23. It allows patrons who had items on hold when the library closed its three buildings March 13 to schedule an appointment to pick up items that are bagged and placed on a table outside the main branch.

From Tuesday, May 26, through May 30, patrons may request items via phone, virtual chat and email, as well as pickup via curbside.

Book drops will be open until 6 p.m. Materials returned to the library will be quarantined for 72 hours, with designated full-time staff manning the main branch to pull items, do chats, provide curbside pickup, take requests, answer phones, virtual programming and shelving.

The June 1 reopening of the Tremont Road library will be another step toward the full resumption of services.

"Starting June 1, the library vestibule will be open with limited computer access, possibly by appointment, and (limited access to) copy and fax," library director Beth Hatch said. "Curbside will still be available and requests will be taken via email, chat and phone."

Hatch said item holds "may be" available for pickup, and officials still are mulling whether self-checkout will be available on Day 1.

The use of meeting rooms, live programs, outreach services, one-on-one services and passport appointments remain suspended until further notice, but patrons will be permitted to visit the library to check out items and use some of its equipment.

"The library and its services will look much different," Hatch said. "The library will be open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

"We will ask that patrons maintain proper social distancing from each other and from staff. We will ask that patrons who are not feeling well stay at home."

Hatch said library staff members will be required to wear gloves and masks while providing assistance.

"We will have a very limited number of computers available," she said. "Time limits on the computers will be reduced. Copiers and faxing will be available but assistance will be limited due to social distancing requirements. Meeting rooms, live programs, outreach services, one-on-one services and passport appointments have been suspended until further notice."

Hatch said the library wants to provide vital services to the community while taking precautions against the potential spread of COVID-19.

"Our primary concern is the health and safety of our staff, patrons and volunteers, and we will follow the safety guidelines the governor has issued," she said.

Financial concerns

Although the reopening is good news, Hatch said, the library has suffered through the closure of its main branch, the Lane Road Library and the Miller Park Library, as well as the pandemic-related downturn in the economy.

"The library is also adjusting to the financial realities of the loss of revenue suffered by the state due to business closures, specifically the impact on the Public Library Fund," a library press release stated. "The PLF comprises 44% of the library's budget, and the library is estimated to lose more than 30% of that revenue."

Because of those losses, the release said the library cut 30% of its budgeted expenditures for 2020, furloughed 70 employees and reduced full-time employees' pay by between 5% and 6.25%.

The furlough-induced staff reductions are the primary reason the Lane Road and Miller Park branches remain closed, the release stated, and "the main library's hours may be reduced."

"Until revenue from the state is restored, the library will need to continue these measures to make sure operations are stable and viable," the release stated. "The decisions to reduce staffing levels and close branches were very difficult to make, but were necessary to make sure the library is able to operate."

Thus far, Hatch said, the UAPL has cut its budget by $640,000. She said part-time staffers were furloughed beginning May 3.

"Right now, we do not have an estimate of when part-time staff will return and when our branches will reopen because we do not know the full extent of the loss of revenue," she said. "We will closely monitor state revenues as the year progresses."

In the meantime, Hatch said, patrons should be aware that it won't be business as usual at the main branch.

The library will follow Gov. Mike DeWine's specific safety guidelines, including maintaining social-distancing measures, limiting building occupancy, requiring face coverings for all employees, providing hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas and offering special hours for at-risk populations.

Patrons will be asked to keep items they have checked out.

"We are figuring out ways to best receive the large amount of items that will be returned," Hatch said. "We will need to quarantine items before they go back on the shelves.

"The Friends of the Library ask that you hold on to your donations during this time."

Additionally, patrons will be asked to avoid staying inside the main branch building for long periods.

"For safety concerns and space constraints, we are asking patrons to limit their time at the library to picking up and checking out materials," Hatch said.

"The majority of our furniture is being stored to limit exposure and have less items to sanitize. The downstairs Reference Department will be closed to the public."

Hatch said library officials are planning to launch the Summer Reading Club and other summer programs June 1, with information available on the library's website, ualibrary.org.

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