Library officials planning to reopen branches slowly but surely

As Indiana loosens gathering restrictions and moves into Stage 3 of its reopening plan, local libraries are looking at ways to ease patrons back inside its branches, which have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has killed more than 100 Johnson County residents, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The Johnson County Public Library and Greenwood Public Library started their first phases of reopening—curbside pickup—earlier this month. During its first two weeks of service, the Johnson County Public Library lent more than 10,000 items to more than 2,500 patrons with its curbside pickup method, Director Lisa Lintner said.

At the Greenwood Public Library, patrons picked up more than 1,500 items between May 11, when the curbside pickup program began, and Wednesday, Director Cheryl Dobbs said.

With curbside pickup, patrons are able to pick up items they’ve reserved. Returned items are quarantined for three days.

Each phase of the county library’s reopening plan will proceed in one-month intervals if there are no future setbacks, Programming Manager Sarah Taylor said.

On May 4, Johnson County Public Library started its curbside pickup program. On June 1, the library will move to its second phase of reopening, with computers available to patrons by appointment only, Taylor said.

“People in the community need to file taxes or unemployment,” she said. “We’ll have 30-minute appointments for computers and printing and will implement remote assistance so staff can help, but not right next to patrons. We’ll have some creative ways to help patrons browse.”

On July 1, the library plans to open at a limited capacity. Library administrators will determine the maximum capacity the library can handle while maintaining social distancing. During that time, the library will encourage people to spend as little time in the library as possible. In August, if the virus does not make a resurgence, county library branches will increase capacity and relax restrictions, continuing outdoor programming and maintaining virtual services for seniors and other vulnerable people in Johnson County, she said.

“I think of this entire plan as a dial; if everything is OK, we turn the dial, If there’s a resurgence, we turn it back,” Taylor said. “The difficulty over the last few months is we want to serve the community during this time. Some patrons say how much they miss us and thank us for taking precautions.”

The Greenwood Public Library is also planning a phased reopening, but does not yet determined dates. After starting curbside pickup last week, library officials are now looking to start letting people use computers, also by appointment-only, sometime in June. Later in June, they will look at allowing more patrons to come into the library, at less than 50% capacity, Dobbs said.

“Every couple of weeks, we’ll do more,” Dobbs said. “We’re going to start slow.”

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May 4: Curbside service began

June 1: Computer usage by appointment-only

July 1: Allow patrons quick visits to libraries while maintaining social distancing

August 1: Loosen restrictions, start outdoor programming, continue virtual services for seniors and vulnerable populations


May 11: Curbside service began

Sometime in June: Computer use by appointment-only

After June: Allow patrons to visit the library at less than 50% capacity

Sources: Johnson County Public Library; Greenwood Public Library