Southwest Public Libraries buildings remain closed, but we're adapting while looking ahead -- from continuing digital programming and planning a virtual Summer Reading Challenge, to passing our renewal levy and beginning the first phase of our reopening.

The continued support and understanding of our patrons has been incredible, and we thank you all.

We especially thank voters for support of the library at the polls.

Even amid great uncertainty, the library's renewal levy passed by a large margin in April.

We're even more grateful in light of the drastic cuts to state funding that Ohio libraries already are beginning to experience.

Libraries are facing a projected 20% to 25% reduction in state funding and have been forced to make difficult cuts in response.

At this time, Southwest has implemented a hiring freeze and cut staff hours for all employees.

Like everyone, we hope the economy recovers quickly and the cuts can be reversed.

Southwest is in the process of reopening safely and responsibly. We are eager to serve patrons in person again, but will continue to prioritize safety and reopen in phases.

On Tuesday, May 26, Southwest will begin limited, no-contact holds pickup as the first step. Patrons with holds on the shelf prior to closure will be notified and will be able to pick up their holds through a no-contact process.

Once notified, patrons may call the library and schedule a time slot to pick up their holds from tables set up either outside or in the vestibule of the library.

Hours for this curbside service will be 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

No-contact pickup will expand in June to any holds placed since the closure that can be filled with titles currently available at Westland or Grove City. Requests of titles from other libraries are unable to be filled until interlibrary transport resumes at a later date.

No-contact pickup is the only in-person service the library is able to offer at this time.

No entrance into the buildings is permitted.

Items may now be returned, but only during pickup hours and only in designated bins placed outside the parking lot entrance at Grove City or in the outside book drop at Westland.

For safety, returned materials will be quarantined for at least 72 hours before being checked in and removed from the patron's account. Staffers have been trained to handle all materials with appropriate precautions and are required to wear masks, practice social distancing and employ frequent handwashing and sanitizing.

Though we've had to cancel in-person programming for the summer, we're excited to present a virtual Summer Reading Challenge beginning May 30.

You'll still be able to track your reading and complete missions online to earn points and win prizes, as well as enjoy your favorite reading-challenge performers and programs via the library's social media. Virtual storytimes also will continue twice weekly.

We're happy to have started the process of reopening and will continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Please visit our Facebook page or website, swpl.org, for the latest updates and virtual offerings.

Mark Shaw is the director of Southwest Public Libraries.