Part of the sidewalk near the entrance at Carroll County Public Library’s Eldersburg branch had the phrase “Welcome back!” written on it in blue chalk, and although the message was faded it signaled the reopening of a community favorite.
A small but eager crowd of people waited for the doors to be unlocked Monday morning at 10. Library visitors separated upon entering — some arrived for an express pick-up, others found computer stations for free wifi access, and a few people headed for stocked book shelves.
The CCPL’s six branches were back in business for the first time since mid-March, when operations were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Branch manager Nadine Rosendale said library officials have been hard at work over the last few months to have services ready in time for the reopening.
“We’re very excited to have our customers back in the building,” Rosendale said a few minutes after Eldersburg opened its doors. “It feels like the first day of school for us.”
Carroll County Public Library’s branches are in Eldersburg, Finksburg, North Carroll, Mount Airy, Taneytown, and Westminster. A support services site is located in New Windsor that can be used for express pickup, according to Lisa Picker, CCPL communications director.
Library buildings have been cleaned and reorganized, and sanitizer stations are visible throughout. Rosendale said some furniture has been removed to create more room for social distancing. Computers were spread out as well to give people more space.
“We did a lot of planning, and kudos to everyone on our staff who participated in that,” said CCPL executive director Andrea Berstler, who spent part of her day at the North Carroll branch. “To use a single word, it was wonderful.”
One of the first visitors who stopped in to the Eldersburg branch Monday found one of those computers and made himself comfortable by removing his shoes. Library staff answered questions for a few people while some book-lovers headed for their favorite reads.
Some services that involve paperwork, such as passports or notary documentation, aren’t available yet. But the library is performing most of its functions, to the delight of employees and patrons alike.
“I figured it was probably going to be very crowded [Monday morning], but then I thought, ‘Well, maybe not. I should go,’ ” said Cheryl Williams, an Eldersburg resident. “And I read so many books ... so I was glad to get back.”
Williams said she visits South Carroll Senior Center and uses its library as well, but that facility has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Williams used the Eldersburg branch’s self checkout system to take home more than a handful of books. She had been buying them for the most part during the time away from the library, but that changed with Monday’s reopening.
Some community members used to meet at the library for a regular gathering for coffee, Williams said. Weekly activities took place in conference rooms, while in other cases people used the branch’s computers for long periods of time.
Now, people are being asked to keep their visits as brief as possible, and computer access is limited to 1 hour per day for each customer. Face shields and coverings are being worn by employees, and visitors must wear masks when inside the library. Disposable gloves are also available upon entering.
One of the more popular services ― people venturing into the library to look for books ― is back in full force.
“We’re especially excited for our browsers ... so they can have time to look at the shelves,” said Heather Owings, manager at CCPL’s Finksburg branch. “Everyone who has come through the door this morning has been really excited to be here. They’re glad that we’re open.”
The branches are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meeting room usage and reservations aren’t allowed right now, according to CCPL’s website, and neither are the Play and Learn centers for children.
But the virtual calendar is filled with daily activities, and customers can still download e-books and audiobooks online. Express pickup, where patrons can come to any branch’s lobby and grab their items in a labeled paper bag, is still going on. Library officials expect that number to go down as attendance numbers increase, however.
Owings stood just inside the Finksburg entrance and kept count of how many people came into her branch by tapping on a tablet. Twelve librarygoers were inside shortly before noon.
Rosendale started her day in the Eldersburg lobby to keep an eye on things.
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“There’s a lot that has been going on and a lot will continue to go on,” Rosendale said. “Just trying to do whatever we can to use this space, make sure people can be socially distant and still use the library in a good and safe way.”