Staff at Tallmadge Library prepare to welcome patrons back into building

One-way aisles, special hours for those with health conditions part of reopening plan

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Michael Bianchi, the branch manager at the Tallmadge Branch Library of the Akron-Summit County Public Library system, measures out 6 feet near the copier. The library is scheduled to open to the public July 27.

TALLMADGE – Those reentering the Tallmadge Library again for the first time since it was shuttered in mid-March due to COVID-19 will notice several changes. Hand sanitizer and disposable masks near the entrances. Stickers marking one-way aisles and social distancing.

The Akron-Summit County Public Library main library and branch libraries (including the one in Tallmadge) will reopen its buildings on July 27, after having to temporarily close by state order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Building access was initially supposed to start on July 20, but the library administration pushed reopening back by a week due to the increased alert level for COVID-19 for Summit County. Gov. Mike DeWine’s office created a color-coded system for the state’s 88 counties that indicate the amount of risk of exposure to COVID-19. The colors, from least to most severe, are yellow, orange, red and purple. Currently, Summit County is red, or Level 3.

“We do not anticipate postponing our reopening date if Summit County remains in Risk Level 3,” said Pamela J. Hickson-Stevenson, executive director. “If the county moves to Risk Level 4, we would seek guidance from public health officials before making a decision.”

Several area libraries initially imposed an age limit to those who could enter the library; Hickson-Stevenson said the Akron-Summit County libraries will not do this.

Michael Bianchi, the branch manager at the Tallmadge Branch Library, said the staff was working to make the library “as safe as can be.”

“We will have dividers at the checkout desks like you see at the grocery stores,” Bianchi said. “We are quarantining our book drop materials. We have been sanitizing out high touch areas every two hours. When people come back in, there will be more surfaces, and we will see an increased need for that.”

Hickson-Stevenson said that materials are quarantined for three days.

Bianchi said that stickers marking one-way aisles and for social distancing are being placed.

“Hopefully everyone will be on the same team,” Bianchi said.

There will be a limit of 50 people in the building at any one time, but Bianchi added he didn’t see this as an issue.

“We normally don’t have 50 people here at the same time unless there’s a big program,” he said. “Social distancing and removing furniture will help.”

For those with health issues that make them more susceptible to complications from the novel coronavirus, the libraries will have special hours Tuesdays and Thursdays in the first hour, Bianchi said. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. The branch libraries are closed Saturdays and Sundays.

For those who are not comfortable with going into the buildings, Bianchi said the library will still offer curbside service.

“Patrons can set up [an] appointment themselves online, and the staff prints out the list,” he said. “Or, if they prefer, they can call and make [an appointment] over the phone. We are happy to see our patrons are coming back. We will bring out the materials, in [a] cart if needed, and if they have mobility issues, they can pop their trunk and we can put their materials in there.”

Hickson-Stevenson said that staff will be required to check their temperatures before the start of their shift and will be required to wear face coverings. Face coverings also will be required for patrons inside the building, she added.

“This requirement will be in place for the duration of the public health emergency,” she said. “Exceptions will be made for individuals with a medical or religious exemption from wearing a face covering. Additionally, children under the age of 2 are not required to wear a face covering. Individuals must wear face coverings over both their nose and mouth.”

Those who cannot wear a face covering for medical or religious reasons can still come inside the library, “but will receive limited service,” Hickson-Stevenson said.

“Staff must maintain a safe physical distance of 6 feet or work behind a clear barrier when serving customers without masks, both of which will impact our ability to assist with computer use, with locating materials, and with other activities that typically require less distance than 6 feet,” she said.

Bianchi said he and the staff were “happy to see our patrons are coming back” with the curbside service and now the reopening of the buildings.

“We look forward to seeing everyone Monday,” he said.

The Tallmadge Branch Library is at 90 Community Road. For details and updates, visit https://www.akronlibrary.org/ or call 330-633-4345.

April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com