June 24, 2020

Princeton Public Library Rolls Out First Two Phases of Reopening Plan

By Anne Levin

The first two phases of a three-part reopening plan for Princeton Public Library are now underway. As of Wednesday, June 24, the library is accepting the return of materials that were borrowed prior to the March 13 closing of the building due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But opening its doors to the public is not part of the initial phases, or chapters, of what the library is calling “Reopening by the Book.” The plan’s first two were approved June 19 by the library’s board of trustees, which must still approve the third.

To return the more than 20,000 books, audiobooks, DVDs, and music CDs that have been out on loan, patrons must use the book and audiovisual drops on Sylvia Beach Way, the one-way lane behind the building. In addition, a bin will be under a tent outside the Community Room doors on Hinds Plaza from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The book drops at Princeton Shopping Center and Palmer Square will remain closed until further notice.

Once book drops are emptied, the materials will be quarantined in the Community Room for a minimum of 72 hours, in accordance with guidelines developed by the American Library Association.

All items currently on loan will have a due date of July 15, with extended use fees to begin accruing on July 16. Returned items will remain on the cardholder’s account during the quarantine

period. Items will be backdated upon check-in to reflect the date they were actually returned. For those who have 30 or more items checked out on a single card or by multiple members of a household, special arrangements can be made.

At a date to be determined, Phase 2 will allow for walkup, contactless pickup — again using Sylvia Beach Way. Along with keeping patrons safe, the priority is on protecting members of the staff.

“Our short-term focus has been on ensuring that staff movements in the building are in a way that allows for social distancing,” said Executive Director Jennifer Podolsky, in an email. “We have several common work areas for staff that will need to be reconfigured for social distancing. Also, some of that will be achieved through scheduling. We have been working closely with the Princeton Health Department on these two phases of the plan and will be looking to them, and to statewide library organizations, for guidance as we execute additional parts of the plan.”

Podolsky said members of the staff have been instructed in the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing. “When we move to additional phases involving members of the public being in the building, we’ll offer additional training,” she said.

The library will not accept any book donations until further notice.

Podolsky said it is too early to decide on limits for how many people will be allowed inside the building at one time. “Right now, the administrative order covering libraries only allows for contactless delivery of materials from the collection, not for customer service in the building,” she said. “When that changes, we’ll look at our capacity options.”

Once the building does reopen, the library will work with the owners of its Jammin’ Community Cafe to determine how to best serve customers.

“Many in the community have expressed gratitude for the services offered by the Virtual Princeton Public Library and I’m proud of the way our staff stepped up to enhance and expand our digital services,” Podolsky said. Whatever the post-coronavirus landscape looks like for libraries, we know that digital resources will continue to gain importance. We fully expect to be able to meet the evolving needs of the Princeton community.”

For more information, visit princetonlibrary.org/reopening.