Even as the Belgrade Library continues to modify its programs to best serve patrons during the pandemic, it has been decided to open the building to the public five days a week for the first time since March.
Library Director Gale Bacon said a survey of patrons was conducted to determine their preferences about extending the library hours, which has been open only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday under Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan.
Beginning next week, however, the library will open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while maintaining the four-hour windows on the other weekdays. Bacon said immunocompromised and vulnerable patrons still will have to the opportunity to come into the library from 9-10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Bacon said the extended hours will not jeopardize the materials mailing service that began during the pandemic. Patrons have been able to materials to be mailed to their homes, and those with a medical or other legitimate reason for being unable to come into the library still will be able to request that service.
This week the library also is prepared to roll out a service designed to keep patrons connected by allowing them to borrow equipment to set up their own mobile hotspots.
Billy Cirullo, the library’s technical administrator, said Belgrade is part of a statewide project designed to increase internet availability to lesser-served areas.
“We have some spots in this particular part of the valley where you can’t get internet access at home,” Cirullo said. “Now you can borrow the internet.”
He explained he has been setting up and testing nine mobile hotspot devices that patrons will be able to borrow for two-week periods in the same way they would check out any other library material.
He said the library also just received three generation iPads to loan to those who might need a device to go along with the hotspot.
Cirullo said some devices may be ready to lend within the next couple of weeks, with full program rollout scheduled for the end of the month or early November.
Some popular library programs are being modified this fall to better serve patrons during the pandemic. Youth Services Librarian Benjamin Elliott said storytimes for very young children are being moved inside after being held outdoors all summer. Up to five families will be able to sign up for morning sessions at 10:15. Accompanying caregivers will be required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing protocols.
Elliott said an after-school program for school-age children up to fourth-grade is being continued on Fridays this fall with some modifications. Coinciding with the schools’ early release on Fridays, the students may come to the library between 11:30 and 2 p.m. to participate in a themed activity.
Take-home kits are being offered to students who wish to participate in the library-sponsored STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs. The library is also providing “Build-a-learner” kits designed to promote literacy and school readiness for families with children up to age 4.
The library staff also is modifying activities for adults this fall. The popular “crafternoon” program has been modified for the pandemic, with the library providing kits containing all the supplies needed for patrons to complete their own Zoom craft at home.
The staff also has announced resources that soon will be available online to patrons. One is the Lynda.com website, which Bacon describes where one can “learn about anything.”
An online version of the Chilton Auto Repair manual will be ready in January. The library is looking into purchasing a good online encyclopedia.