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Library announces four-phase reopening plan, summer reading program

By Staff | May 22, 2020

Emily Bennett, of Kearneysville, watches her five-year-old daughter Aubrey Bennett sign up for last year's Shepherdstown Public Library's summer reading program in this file photograph. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — This week, the Shepherdstown Public Library entered its ninth week of being closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Gov. Jim Justice announced the entire state was hotspot-free on Monday, the library may be able to begin inching towards reopening.

During the Shepherdstown Public Library board meeting on May 13, Director Hali Taylor revealed the library’s reopening plan, which was developed through collaboration with the Jefferson County Health Department, the West Virginia Library Commission and other library directors in the Eastern Panhandle.

“We’ve all kind of agreed on just a general kind of four-phase plan. The first phase is now, where we’re all just trying to stop our heads from spinning and just understand all the different facets and the changes that are coming. We can’t predict them all, but we have to prepare for some of them,” Taylor said, mentioning this may include changing the library’s appropriate dress policy to require the wearing of face masks.

“We are ordering supplies and re-arranging libraries to prepare for no-contact services in phase two,” Taylor said, mentioning phase two will make it possible for books to be requested online or over-the-phone, and picked up at a table in front of our directly within the library’s doors, depending on the weather forecast.

According to Taylor, phase two will likely begin by June 1. Currently, the library staff are gradually being brought back to work in the library, with their work scheduling being constructed to maintain social distancing measures.

“We’re going to stay in phase two until we decide it is safe enough to proceed to phase three, which will be doing more things, like if people need notary sources, to hand it through the book drop, or if they need something printed, they can email it to us and we can print it out there,” Taylor said, mentioning patrons will not be able to browse through the library or participate in most library programs until phase four is introduced.

However, one beloved aspect of the library’s summer programming will continue, the summer reading program. Themed “Imagine Your Story,” the program will begin as soon as the library begins loaning out books in phase two.

“I’m reluctant to run a reading program where we can’t loan the books to people,” said Children’s Librarian Tish Wiggs. “I want to make sure we’re in the point of our reopening phases where we’re loaning books, so that there’s an impetus for them to do a reading program with us. Whatever kind of works with our phases, we’ll do that.”

According to Wiggs, the program will use a digital reading log this summer, purchased by the WVLC for the next two years, for children to report their reading activities in. The log will be a similar kind of reporting, but will help the library to do its part to limit the spread of COVID-19, by not exchanging paper logs with patrons.

Wiggs also announced a change in the rewards program for children who complete their summer reading logs.

“We usually try to support a lot of the local businesses by creating these sort of coupon books for the kids, which the kids really like and seems good for the local businesses, because I’m sure kids don’t go in and get one little bag of popcorn. I’m sure they get other stuff, too,” Wiggs said. “We can’t be sure all of those places will be open by the time they get their coupon books, so we’re going to abandon that this year and we’re going to just see if we can get one universal surprise. We’re going to talk to the Four Seasons Books and see if everybody who completes the reading log this year gets a gift card that we’ll purchase out of summer reading funds from the book store. That keeps us on-theme and keeps us book-oriented.

“Hopefully we won’t have too many disappointed little kids who like to go collect all their goodies around the street. I know the coupons are really popular, but we’ll bring it back when it’s safe,” Wiggs said, mentioning this will be her first summer as the children’s department librarian. “Summer reading’s my big thing right now! I’m sad, because it will be my first one to plan, but that’s okay. We’ll bring [the normal program] back.”

The library also made it clear that patrons receiving automated book overdue notices at this time should ignore them, as no overdue fees are being charged right now.