After being closed for more than two months, Southwest Public Libraries has taken the first step toward a gradual reopening of its Grove City and Westland Area branches.
The libraries started no-contact pickup of previously reserved items May 26 at the Grove City Library, 3959 Broadway, and Westland Area Library, 4740 W. Broad St., Columbus.
"It's going to be a while before our libraries will be able to return to regular service," SPL director Mark Shaw said. "But this was an important first step."
The pickup service started with holds that were ready before the library buildings were closed to the public in March.
The service was scheduled to expand June 1 to include requests for items currently available at one of the SPL locations, Shaw said.
"We won't be able to handle other requests until we get the word that the delivery system of items between the 17 members of the Central Ohio Library Consortium can resume," he said.
The SPL buildings will remain closed to the public, Shaw said.
Patrons may place their request for items at swpl.org and receive notification by phone or email when their reserved items are ready.
They may schedule a pickup time at the Grove City Library by calling 614-875-6716, ext. 501, and at the Westland Area Library by calling 614-878-1301, ext. 601.
The holds are placed on tables or carts near each building's main entrance.
Hours for pickup are 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Items may be returned to bins outside the parking-lot entrance at Grove City or in the outside book drop at Westland. All returned items are being quarantined for at least 72 hours before being handled by staff, Shaw said.
"We're placing the bins in the large meeting rooms at each library for the three days before staff members will start processing them to return them to circulation," he said.
With the meeting rooms being used for quarantining items, it will be some time before those spaces are available for public events, Shaw said.
Even when the library buildings reopen to the public, it's likely access will be limited or adjusted, he said.
"We'll be doing things like placing our computers farther away from each other so people can maintain safe social distancing from one another," Shaw said.
"The reopening of the libraries will be done in multiple phases," he said. "We'll be incorporating a lot of measures to ensure the safety of our staff and our patrons. That's of paramount importance."
Although the library remains closed, SPL's summer reading program was scheduled to start May 30.
This year's Summer Reading Challenge will be offered virtually, youth-services director Lore Lehr said.
The program "is for all ages, babies through adults," and runs through July 25, she said.
For youngsters, the format works as in past years, Lehr said. They can earn one point for every minute they read, 30 points if they know the secret code that is announced during reading-challenge programs and either 15 or 30 points for completing a series of challenges, or missions and quests.
"Sometimes they are simple things like taking a nature walk. Sometimes those tasks get more complicated like uploading a picture of a flower or using one of our databases," she said.
Children and teens each receive a book and coupons from local businesses when they finish the Summer Reading Challenge program, Lehr said. They also are entered into a raffle for prizes that include Kings Island tickets, a puppet theater and a set of books.
Adults can earn a chance to win prizes by completing book reviews, Lehr said.
The summer will include performers offered at 10:30 a.m. each Monday. SPL will offer a link to the performances through Facebook and swpl.org.
The upcoming schedule includes The Caravan, featuring Found Sounds (making sound effects), Monday, June 8; Didgeridoo Down Under, June 19; Ohio Nature Education featuring Wildlife in Fairytales & Myth, June 29; Stevens Puppets, July 6; and Sciencetellers featuring Dragons: Return of the Ice Sorceress, July 13.
The online storytime series will continue with Westland Area Library presenters appearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Grove City staff appearing at 10:30 a.m. Thursdays.
"Our storytimes have been going for a month or so," Lehr said. "The presenters will generally read a story and do some sort of activity like a craft demo or a song or fingerplay."
The summer reading club is more important than ever during this pandemic time, she said.
"It's important that kids have a chance to keep reading throughout the summer," Lehr said. "For us, it's important because we miss our patrons and feel it's important to stay connected to them."