CK libraries to reopen in stages

The Thamesville Branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library (Photo by Jake Kislinsky)

A few Chatham-Kent Public Library (CKPL) branches will reopen this week for residents who want to have a quick browse or use the computers.

CEO and Chief Librarian Tania Sharpe said the Chatham, Wallaceburg, and Thamesville library branches will reopen with reduced hours this week as part of a soft launch.

Sharpe said the gradual reopening of branches is very exciting for staff members.

“Our staff are really happy to actually see our patrons in person,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of them when we’re doing our curbside [pickup], we talk to them through the door as we pass things through but this will be just a little more personal.”

Starting on September 16, the Chatham branch will be open from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The Wallaceburg branch will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and from 4 p.m to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. The Thamesville branch will only be open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Sharpe said there will be a limit on the number of people allowed in at once and visits of 30 minutes or less are encouraged.

Aside from quickly browsing library material, picking up holds, and checking out material, computer services will also be available. However, Sharpe said to start, public computers will only be available to patrons for one 45 minute session per day. Computer sessions must be booked in advance by calling (519) 354-2940. Photocopying and printing services will also be available but exact change is required.

“We’re starting slow, in Chatham we have a couple of computers available in the adult section. We will probably [increase] the numbers in the next week or so,” said Sharpe.

Sevices such as public washrooms, water fountains, book donations, and study tables will not be available.

Sharpe said the next library branches to reopen with reduced hours sometime next week will be in Ridgetown, Tilbury, and Blenheim. She said if all goes as planned, most CKPL branches will be open with more hours by October with COVID-19 procedures in place.

With branches starting to reopen, Sharpe said most staff members have been brought back.

“Just about everybody has been recalled now,” she said. “We’re almost back to a full complement of staff. Once people come in and start browsing our collections, more items will come back and then I’ll need more help.”

Library branches in Chatham-Kent have been closed to the public for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic but started offering curbside services earlier this summer, a service that will continue. Sharpe said the virtual library will also remain available for residents to access.

“It’s still very popular. People are still using the [virtual library] quite a lot,” she said. “While we were closed down and not staffed, in the eight weeks before we got curbside [running], we had over 620 virtual self-registration cards come through. The uptake of those resources really soared.”

Sharpe noted that some people who signed up for virtual services are now requesting a physical library card so that they can take out physical materials.

For those returning materials, Sharpe said items are still being quarantined for 72 hours as a precaution so patrons are asked to use the external book-drop instead of bringing return items inside of a library branch.