Upper Arlington main library branch opens to the delight of patrons

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek
Sisters Mina Gingerich (left) and Lara Gingerich, both of Columbus, browse through a selection of books Oct. 7 at the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch. The atrium of the main library reopened to the public for limited services Sept. 28.

After being shut out for more than five months, patrons have returned to the Upper Arlington Public Library’s main branch.

Roughly two weeks after the Sept. 28 reopening of the atrium at 2800 Tremont Road, patrons wearing required face masks browsed for books, movies and other items, while others accessed the library’s information desk and still others shuffled through self-checkout stations.

With all other areas of the library remaining closed due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t exactly back to business. Still, library visitors on Oct. 7 were happy to return.

“We’re all just delighted,” said Marilyn Hood, an Upper Arlington resident. “We missed it so much.”

The library closed all three branch buildings March 13.

Curbside services have been provided at the main and Lane Road branches since May 12, but Hood, who visited the library twice a week before the pandemic, said it wasn’t the same.

Yanira Meyers (right), a circulation assistant, and Jennifer Faure, community engagement specialist, help customers check out materials at the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch Oct. 7.

“Now I can go pick up things on my own, whereas before, you had to order them,” she said. “I also know a lot of people who work here. I like to come in and chat with them. They’ve been here a long time and I’ve been here a long time as a patron. So they’re friends.”

Fellow patron Nancy Claman called the library’s main branch her “favorite place on earth.”

“There’s all these books here,” she said. “I love books. It’s just nice to be able come in. When you go online, you find books and put them on your list, but now you can come in and kind of browse and you’ll see something you didn’t know existed.”

Library Director Beth Hatch said the number of items checked out increased by 1,000 in the first week the main library reopened the atrium.

She said the decision was predicated on Franklin County Public Health decreasing the coronavirus health advisory rating to level 2, which states there is a risk of exposure to the virus and spreading it; residents are urged to exercise a high degree of caution and follow current health orders.

“At level 2, it was determined to be safer to allow patrons into the building,” Hatch said. “Opening access to the main library's atrium allowed us to offer more items for browsing and more self-service options.”

The main library’s atrium is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

While the main library’s youth, adult, media and reference departments remain closed, services available in the atrium include self-checkout of held items, browsing and self-checkout of a limited collection.

Computer access, photocopying and faxing are available only by appointment.

“The library is following all of the required mandates from the state in regards to wearing masks and social distancing,” Hatch said. “It is why we have a limited capacity in our main library building, to ensure the ability to socially distance. 

“Since the atrium is the only part of the building that is accessible, we are only allowing 10 groups in at a time. This will be expanded once additional areas of the main library are open.”

Curbside services at the main library remain available from 10 to 11 a.m. 

Since Sept. 28, Hatch said walk-up window services and pick-ups for holds have been available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The main library’s book drops are open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. 

The Lane Road book drops are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Miller Park Library remains closed.

“Miller Park is not yet open due to several different factors,” Hatch said. “Due to a staffing shortage, Miller Park staff have been working at the main library. As soon as we are able to hire more staff to work at the main library, Miller Park staff will return to the branch. Miller Park Library is currently being utilized as a location to create virtual programming and provide additional distanced work space.”

Hatch said library officials are working on a plan to extend services at all three locations considering staffing, supplies, space to quarantine materials and the extent to which social distancing is possible.

“We are continually reassessing when we are able to open additional areas to the public based upon available staff, cleaning supplies and ways that we can socially distance while providing library services,” she said. “Once we are able to safely staff our service areas, we plan to open other departments.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate