NORDONIA HILLS — Fans of the Nordonia Hills Branch Public Library do not have long to wait before they can enter through its doors again, but it will not be quite the same experience.
More than four months after it closed due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the branch at 9458 Olde Eight Road in Northfield Center is scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27. The reopening had been scheduled for July 20.
"Things are going to look a little different when patrons come in and there are going to be a few requirements," Branch Manager Katie Hughes said last week.
Hughes said there will be plexiglass shields between staff and patrons at the service desk, social distancing reminders such as signs and markings on the floor, extra hand sanitizer available, and directional lines in the one-way aisles.
"We will have limited seating that’s socially distanced and a limited number of computers available," said Hughes.
Staff and patrons will also be required to wear masks, as now mandated by the state, with some disposable masks available for those who need them.
In addition, the first hour of operation on Tuesdays and Thursdays — 10 to 11 a.m. — will be set aside for more vulnerable patrons, such as seniors and people with health issues that make them more susceptible to the virus.
Also, returned items will need to be placed into the drop box, not handed directly to staff.
"Any materials that you bring back will be quarantined for three days," said Hughes. "So, patrons will see those items on their account for a few days, but that’s just because they’re in quarantine and there won’t be any fines or anything for those three days."
Hughes said that when patrons remove items from shelves while browsing without checking them out, they will be asked to place them on a cart rather than reshelve them so that they too can be quarantined. She said the three-day quarantine period is the recommendation of a study of how long the virus remains on different surfaces that was conducted by Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit research and development organization.
The July 20 reopening was delayed a week to ensure everything would be in place, Hughes said.
"Our administration just wanted to be sure that we had all of the equipment and protective barriers in place to keep staff and the public safe when we opened," said Hughes. "I knew there was a delay in some of the supply chains so they are waiting on the plexiglass barriers, distancing markers for the floor — they’re like vinyl adhesive decals — and sanitizing supplies, too. All of the wipes and spays are in limited supply. The due dates [for delivery] were, I think, toward the end of this week, beginning of next week, so it was just too close for comfort."
The library closed March 18, though it never completely ended services. Digital materials — databases, eBooks, audio books, online magazines and comics, and streaming movies and music remained available throughout. The building’s wifi system was also boosted.
"Patrons who didn’t have Internet access at home could use the Wi-Fi in our parking lot if they needed to," said Hughes.
The July 27 reopening is the fourth of a five-phase reopening plan for Akron-Summit County Public Library branches.
In phase one, branch managers returned to begin planning and building preparation. During phase two, beginning in mid-June, book drops were opened and some staff had returned to process returns. Phase three started June 29 when additional staff returned and the library began curbside pickup and drop off of materials by appointment.
Hughes said curbside pickup will continue by appointment even after the branch reopens for patrons uncomfortable about coming in. Hours for this service are Mondays to Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.
Hughes said the final phase is when "everything is back to normal," such as resumption of in-person programming, public use of the meeting rooms and outreach to nursing homes and schools.
"That’s the only phase with no date assigned to it," she said.
Still, said Hughes, there are plans for the immediate future.
"We are going to be offering a full slate of virtual programs for the fall and that will be starting in September," she said. "And that will be things like book clubs, group discussions, guest speakers, story times, activities for children and things like that."
She added that even during the shutdown, staff were creating online content, including story times.
For more information, go to www.akronlibrary.org or call the Nordonia Hills branch at 330-467-8595.
Hughes said she and the rest of the branch staff are looking forward to the reopening.
"We’ve been working hard to make sure the branch can reopen safely and we’re really excited to see our patrons," she said. "We miss talking with them and sharing our book and movie recommendations and seeing them every day."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.