Pandemic response: Pickerington Public Library receives coronavirus relief funds

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Raychelle Steele, customer service leader at the Pickerington Public Library, fields a call Sept. 30 at the Main Library, 201 Opportunity Way,. The library received $50,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds to be used for cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, plexiglass barriers and other materials and software to help support safety guidelines, virtual services and remote working.
1008PKlibrary 01.jpg -- Rhonda Adams, a Pickerington Public Library customer service assistant, pulls requested materials for customers at the Pickerington Public Library main branch Sept. 30.
Signs with health safety guidelines for guests have been placed throughout the library’s Main Branch.

The Pickerington Public Library recently received $50,000 in government assistance to offset equipment and supplies designed to protect patrons and staff from COVID-19.   

The funds were distributed to the library by the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.   

The Ohio Controlling Board authorized the funds to be granted to Ohio public libraries, but the original source is the U.S. Treasury Department’s $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The payments are designed to assist libraries in operating safely during the coronavirus pandemic, including supporting increased sanitation costs, maintaining social distancing, purchasing personal protection equipment and other necessary costs to comply with public-health orders, local health department recommendations and best practices.  

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine credited state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township) for helping to identify local needs for the funding.   

“Thanks to our partners in the General Assembly, specifically Rep. Jeff LaRe, CARES Act funding is going back into our communities and supporting local resources,” DeWine said. “We know this funding will be put to good use serving the community.”  

Pickerington library director Tony Howard said the money will be pay for cleaning supplies, such as disinfectant spray, bleach and hand sanitizer. The money also supports the ongoing purchase of personal protective equipment for staff, including face masks and rubber gloves.   

Additionally, the assistance will offset costs for installation of plexiglass barriers at the Main Branch and Sycamore Plaza Branch, as well as book-drop supplies to support quarantine of materials, bags to support touchless curbside service, equipment and software to support virtual services and remote working.   

At the Main Branch, 201 Opportunity Way, the funds will maintain a drive-up service window that will take the place of curbside services.   

“We were extremely grateful to the Ohio Controlling Board and members of the Ohio Senate for recognizing the importance of libraries in our society,” Howard said.  

“Their understanding and support is one factor, which enables Ohio libraries to be the best in the nation.”    

Howard said Ohio libraries are receiving a total of $18.3 million from the CARES Act to assist in operating safely during the pandemic.   

“Each library system had to apply for the funds, and all funds must be spent by the end of 2020,” he said. “The nice thing about these funds is they give us the ability to reimburse expenditures already made due to the pandemic.  

“So far, the library has spent $18,260.41 of the $50,000 on PPE, cleaning supplies and other COVID-related items.”   

Howard said the funding is welcomed amid unforeseen supply and equipment costs and state budget cuts.    

The library also has felt the pinch of state budget cuts brought on by the pandemic, he said.   

As a result of the statewide shutdown between mid-March and businesses reopening in June, the library saw a loss of state revenue of $88,675 in July, Howard said, adding the library also lost general revenue from daily operations.   

Additionally, hours for all the library’s non-exempt staff members were reduced by 10% and all exempt staff 3% "with the expectation that they continue to work their full 40 hours and support vacancies where needed," library community engagement manager Colleen Bauman said in July. 

“In a year where we made cuts to almost all areas of our budget, including reducing staff hours pay, we have already spent more than double our original budget for cleaning supplies," Howard said. “Additionally, we did not budget at all for plexiglass barriers and the supplies necessary to quarantine materials.”  

Howard said the library also is setting up a “Reserve-a-Service” system online and at the library to reserve tables, computers and business centers at its branches.   

“This will enable staff to know when these areas are being used and keep them clean for future visitors,” he said. “The Homework Help Center has been moved to the (Main Branch) atrium area in the library to allow for social distancing.   

“The small and large conference rooms have been opened up with limited seating. Instead of eight in the small conference room, it is two people and instead of 10 in the large conference room, it is three people.”  

The library’s hours at the Main Branch are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.   

Hours at the Sycamore Plaza Branch, 7861 Refugee Road, are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The branch is closed Friday.   

nellis@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekNate