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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Local Libraries Consider Service Changes As Coronavirus Cases Surge

a photo of books
Cuyahoga County Public Library branches are closing buildings to the public, shifting to drive-thru or curbside service options as coronavirus cases rise.

Updated: 5:01 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020

Local public libraries are once again reducing services as Cuyahoga County enters a stay-at-home advisory and coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) announced Wednesday it is closing its branches to the public, though curbside pickup service is still available at 16 branches and drive-thru is available at 11. The change goes into effect Thursday, said library spokesperson Hallie Rich, and will remain in place for the duration of the county’s three-week stay-at-home advisory.

“This is the safest option we have right now. We want to encourage people to be attentive to the stay-at-home advisory,” Rich said.

During the spring coronavirus shutdown, CCPL laid off or furloughed 300 employees. But no similar measures are expected at this time, Rich said.

“Our staff are still busy, our staff are still working and doing all the virtual programs, so our hope is that we can continue at the levels where we are today,” Rich said.

The libraries will evaluate the length of the closure and staffing needs at a later date, she said.

“This is the kind of thing that we’re going to have to monitor over time,” Rich said. “If we find that we’re having to cut hours or cut staffing, then of course there would be… associated potential reductions in staffing.”

Printing and faxing services may be available upon request depending on the branch, and the libraries will continue to host virtual programming. Book donations will not be accepted while buildings are closed, according to a press release.

Drive-thru and pickup is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Returned materials will be quarantined for 96 hours, according to the press release.

The Cleveland Public Library (CPL) Board of Trustees also voted to limit services Thursday. CPL branches will close to the public Saturday, limiting pickup to walk-up or curbside service.

Moving to curbside will improve social distancing and safety precautions inside library buildings, said CPL Executive Director and CEO Felton Thomas.

“What moving to curbside will allow us to do is, without having staff come in, patrons come in, is expanding the area for our staff so they can be farther away from each other,” Thomas said.

CPL also plans to close branches on Saturdays, beginning Nov. 28. The change in services will continue through the end of March 2021, though administration may choose to shorten or lengthen that period as needed.

From March through October, Thomas said the library saw seven positive cases. But eight more staff members have tested positive in the last three weeks, he said.

“The COVID surge that has hit the community as a whole has also hit our staff,” Felton said. “This is something that I find in institutions and other libraries across the state and the city.”

None of the cases were contracted at the library, Thomas said, and staff have been following quarantine and isolation procedures before returning to work. No staff members have ended up in the hospital due to the virus so far, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on CPL’s circulation, according to Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Corrigan.

Circulation down 43 percent, he said, and computer use inside the libraries is generally down. But residents are still accessing digital materials, he said. E-book and other electronic media circulation is up by 25 percent, he said.

“It’s pretty obvious that despite two months of being closed all together, people are still very much dependent on the library,” Corrigan said.

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