County libraries close due to virus outbreak

As a viral pandemic spread across Indiana and into Johnson County, local library officials made the decision it would not be safe to keep their doors open.

Patrons of all three library systems will have to do their reading, movie watching and music listening through online resources. On Monday, library officials made the decision to close the Greenwood Public Library until April 15. There is no set date for the reopening of the Johnson County Public Library branches, all of which the library board decided to close Tuesday during its monthly meeting.

The Edinburgh Public Library closed at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will remain closed until further notice, Director Chris Hoffman said.

More information about the steps the Edinburgh library will take in order to determine when it’s safe to return will be made during its board meeting Thursday, he said.

The closures are due to growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, a viral pandemic that, as of Wednesday afternoon, has affected at least 39 Hoosiers, including four Johnson County residents, one of whom died, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Coronavirus affects the respiratory system and can cause fever, sore throat, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization.

Any ideas of having a curbside book pickup subsided after realizing the potential for contamination of borrowed items, said Lisa Lintner, director of the Johnson County Public Library.

“We have struggled with a plan to continue service while being closed,” Lintner said. “My plan is to close libraries based on the recommendations from the American Library Association and the Johnson County Health Department and talking to other library directors.”

The Johnson County Public Library is suspending due dates on all materials until May 1, and the Greenwood Public Library suspended due dates until April 28. The delay of returning materials helps decrease the potential spread of the virus, which can stay on surfaces for several days, Lintner said.

“If we require some staff to collect materials that have the virus on it, we’re putting them at risk,” Lintner said. “If we give books to people and there’s a virus and they say ‘we got it from the library,’ that’s where the struggle is.”

Library officials will reassess the pandemic on March 31, to determine if they can reopen, she said.

Greenwood Library officials invited the public to park outside the library, where they can access the GPL-Guest network, which has no password. Both library systems have an assortment of online resources their patrons can use while the branches are closed, allowing them to access e-books, movies and music without leaving home.

The Edinburgh Public Library has digital resources available to patrons on its website and Facebook page, Hoffman said.

The Johnson County Public Library has expanded the selection of items available on the Cloud Library e-book service, and has increased the number of items patrons can check out on Hoopla, which provides digital movies, music and e-books, from six to 12 per month.

The Johnson County Public Library has canceled all events through the end of April, including an appearance by New York Times best-selling author David Baldacci, scheduled for April 25, Lintner said.