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Though the North Haven Memorial Library has not yet returned to pre-pandemic operations, things are moving in the right direction as the library has recently expanded its hours, added to its programming, and has begun to welcome patrons back through the doors to browse shelves on a limited basis.
The library is now open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It is closed each day from noon to 2 p.m. for cleaning.
“With our expanded hours, we are able to offer more evening programs and starting at a later time,” said Director of Library Services Sue Griffiths. “We hope that this will give everyone who works during the day the opportunity to attend our programs.”
Griffiths and her staff are working with the First Selectman’s Office in order to determine when the library can return to in-person programming and is hopeful for a fall return, but in the meantime, they will continue to run various Zoom programs. The full schedule of programming can be found on the library website www.northhavenlibrary.net, including appearance by Noodle Man, a character created by the staff who now attends most children’s programs.
“The kids love him,” said Griffiths. “The Zoom programs have been great and though we aren’t able to reach everyone in our community, so many patrons have been able to access our programs via Zoom.”
Most programs are not recorded, but the library did complete a grant program that featured programs to help with stress and anxiety resulting from COVID and the videos are now available on the website.
While in-person programming may not be happening at this time, the staff has been excited to begin to see patrons again as patrons are now welcome to walk in without an appointment to browse for 30 minutes or less anytime during open hours. Appointments are required for computer use.
“We are so excited to welcome everyone back to visiting the library in person,” said Griffiths. “We’ve had to close to the public twice now due to COVID and we hope that is all behind us. With so many in the community getting vaccines, we feel like we are on our way back to normalcy. To be open safely, we will continue using our disease mitigation strategies of mask-wearing (above the nose), social distancing, and cleaning for a while longer, but we are looking forward to the day when we will be able to see everyone’s smiles again.”
Despite the challenges of COVID, Griffiths has seen many positives over the past 13 months. The library closed in March 2020 and full-time staff worked a very limited schedule in the building. After brainstorming ideas on how to continue to serve the public, the library began to offer Grab & Go hold pickup service in June. The staff also educated even more patrons about the digital services offered by the library, including eBooks, eAudiobooks, and streaming services.
“I often say that nobody expected or wanted this pandemic, but the new products and services that have materialized from dealing with the pandemic are actually silver linings,” said Griffiths. “Our Grab & Go service is extremely popular, so I anticipate this service will continue for the foreseeable future. Patrons who said that they would never read an eBook because they love holding an actual book now embrace eBooks. They have realized that with eBooks you can access them at any time and could use them on multiple devices. Though some will go back to print books, many will happily continue to use electronic books.”
As the library wasn’t open for browsing, the staff also became creative in how it shared new titles with patrons. The library launched a new winter reading program for children, teens, and adults. Participants filled out a survey and then once a week for six weeks, they picked up their surprise bags and boxes of materials.
“It was a huge success and everyone is asking when we will run a program like it again,” said Griffiths, who said the library is now preparing for its summer reading programs.
“Just like all of our programs in the era of COVID, this program will be a little different than programs in the past, but we are excited about the fun updates to the program and can’t wait to share what’s new,” Griffiths said.
The library board is in the process of creating a poet laureate program. The board is seeking a North Haven resident who is interested in poetry to join the committee. Those interested in joining the committee should email a letter of interest, including a brief background and your own connection to poetry, to email@example.com by May 1.
In addition to learning how to adapt to the ever-changing guidelines, Griffiths has seen her staff creatively find ways to continue to serve the community. Throughout the past year, the library staff has had an opportunity to work within other departments.
“Our staff worked very hard throughout this past year, continually coming up with new ideas of how we can improve services and create fun programs like take-and-create crafts where the library provides supplies and instructions and you make the craft at home to complete,” said Griffiths. “Another silver lining is that our staff had an opportunity to work in different departments and more as team. We’ve gotten to know each other better. I have been saying for about a year now that our staff has grown closer while distancing.”
For information, visit www.northhavenlibrary.net or like North Haven Memorial Library on Facebook.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .