Surge in COVID-19 cases delays Upper Arlington Public Library reopening
Upper Arlington Public Library officials say they are hopeful they will, at some point in the near future, reopen the main library and two branches.
Whether that will play out, however, remains to be seen.
Because of a rise in the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Franklin County and the Ohio Public Health Advisory System designating it at a Level 3, the library's planned July 7 reopening of the atrium was postponed.
Officials also suspended computer use at the main branch after previously allowing patrons to use a limited number of computers by appointment.
"We miss our patrons, and we are very sad we couldn't allow people to come into our atrium," library director Beth Hatch said. "It's really unfortunate, but we have to make sure we're able to keep our staff and patrons safe."
Hatch said library officials throughout Franklin County collectively decided to delay reopening buildings while the county remains at Level 3, which the Ohio Public Health Advisory System says is an environment in which people are at "very high" risk of exposure to or spreading coronavirus.
It is one step down from "public emergency" Level 4, in which people are considered to be at severe risk of exposure and spread of disease and should leave home only for supplies and services.
"As soon as the levels go down, we'll be extending our services and allowing people to do more things at the library," Hatch said.
Once the advisory level drops, the main library's atrium will be reopened for self-checkout, browsing new items, book drops, hold pickups, computer access by appointment and use of copy and fax machines.
Curbside pickup also will be provided at the Miller Park and Lane Road branches.
In the meantime, activities at the library are limited to curbside hold pickups at the main branch from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Book drops are available at the main branch from 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Chat service, virtual programming and other resources are available online at ualibrary.org.
Although patrons don't have to make appointments for curbside pickups or drop-offs, Hatch put out a moderate plea to people who have placed items on hold.
"We're running out of space," she said. "We really need people to come and pick up their (reserved) items."
While patrons wait to be let back in, Hatch said the library hopes soon to increase hours for curbside services.
They'll be expanded as the library restores employees who have lost work due to recent furloughs.
The Ohio Public Library Fund is estimated to have lost more than 30% of its revenue due to an economic downturn when businesses were shut down in March and April combined with the loss of revenue from the state. The fund provides 44% of the UAPL's budget.
Upper Arlington Public Library officials already have cut 30% from budgeted 2020 expenditures for library materials and other items. Additionally, 70 employees were furloughed, and full-time employees' pay was reduced by 5% to 6.25%.
"With businesses reopening, the state revenue has increased and the PLF is rebounding," Hatch said. "We're looking to bring staff back. As soon as we get our staff back, we'll be expanding our curbside hours."
Although patrons can't access UAPL buildings, they are still finding the library to be a resource, as evidenced by the overflow of reserved items and the daily line of vehicles waiting to pick up and drop off items.
Tia Moran has used the curbside pickup throughout the pandemic to get books, movies and other items for herself and her children, Maxwell, 4, and Ada, 5.
"It's been helpful," Moran said. "We've liked it. I've used it a lot for my kids. I've gotten a few things for us, but mainly for the kids."