While the doors have been closed, staff at the Cuyahoga Falls Public Library have nonetheless been busy — and preparing to reopen in the face of new COVID-19 restrictions. The first step will be to offer drive-thru and pickup service starting next week.

Library Director Valerie Kocin said online programs have kept staff busy, but plans to gradually reopen means even more work.

"We’re preparing virtual programs, any books that were in the book drops we’ve put away. There’s been a transformation of all the public service desks — we’ve relaid out all the desks. It looks entirely different," she said. "We have reconfigured everything ... and we’ve been cleaning like mad."

The rearrangement made necessary due to social distancing requirements also included installation of plexiglass shields at service desks.

Even so, the doors will remain closed and in-house programs have been canceled until "at least June 30," the library announced last week.

Starting Tuesday, the library will be reopening for curbside pickup and drive-through service. Hours will  be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The library will also be accepting returns during open hours. All staff will be required to take their temperatures and wear a mask or face covering according to CDC guidelines.

To check out library items, patrons may use the website, the library app, or call staff at the library. Library staff will notify patrons when the items are ready and schedule a pickup time. Library staff will bring items out in a cart to those parked in a labeled spot, or patrons may use the drive through if there is no line. Patrons are asked to wear masks when dealing with library staff.

Patrons are asked to return items during the same hours, but not into the regular book drops, which are closed. Instead, patrons should use the large trash bins in front of the library. Returned items will not be removed from library card records for 7 to 10 days, but no overdue fees will accrue.

Kocin said there is no set date for reopening, which she doesn’t anticipate happening until at least July.

"We’re going to start to resume normal business to see what is customer confidence and what people are looking for. Are they enjoying the virtual programs? What do they need assistance with?" Kocin said.

In the meantime, she said, library staff have spent "a considerable amount of time" creating new services.

"You can call the library and someone will call you back. We have chat, you can do a virtual reference call with a librarian. We have started virtual programming — we have virtual story times," she said.

She said the summer reading program had been the library’s biggest program of the year for school children on summer break, and the virtual summer program has taken a lot of work to produce.

Coming up, families participating in programs will be able to pick up craft kits to compliment virtual activities.

"If you’re a parent working from home, you don’t have time to scramble and do all of this," she said.

Kocin said the key principle behind next week’s resumption of service is to maintain safety for staff and the public.

Library materials that are being returned will be quarantined for a week, four days longer than the most current recommendations, Kocin said. 

"We’re just going to be extra cautious," she said, but added the fundamental guidelines are coming from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office and other health authorities, including a "restart kit" for public entities prepared by University Hospitals.

"It’s not my plan, it’s not my staff’s plan, it’s not the board’s plan," she said.

Services available

* The drive-thru is open for holds pick-up, virtual printing and tax forms.

* Contact the library by phone, email, virtual chat and online. For reference questions, call 330-928-2117, leave a message, and a staff member will return the call.

* Free WiFi is available in the library parking lot 24/7.

* Visit www.cuyahogafallslibrary.org/digital-resources for access to digital ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music, online learning and more.

* Those who don’t have a library card can sign-up for a digital card by visiting www.cuyahogafallslibrary.org/e-only-cards.

* See www.cuyahogafallslibrary.org for updates on virtual programming offerings.

Eric Marotta can be reached at emarotta@recordpub.com