County Libraries Tweak Operations Amid Closures

BERLIN – Library operations, plans for a new branch and budget modifications highlighted a meeting of the Worcester County Library Board of Trustees this week.

On March 23, the Worcester County Library shuttered its branches in accordance with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order closing all non-essential businesses in the state of Maryland.

Since that time, library staff have transitioned to telework, and all events and meeting room reservations have been canceled through April 30.

But Library Director Jennifer Ranck told the board this week the digital library remains open. In addition to digital collections, patrons have access to online resources, educational tools, research databases and virtual programming.

Ranck said the library’s closure has made officials rethink how it delivers programming in the future.

“We might continue with virtual programming,” she said. “I think there might be some energy for that. Those that can’t join us for a program on Tuesday at 2 p.m. can watch it online on Thursday evening.”

Ranck told the board that patrons are using email and social media to connect with the library. She added that patrons can also register for a virtual card to access the library’s digital collection.

Ranck also noted that library staff continue to work from their homes, but continue to hold Zoom virtual meetings, create and execute virtual programs, complete webinars, and more. She said the goal for the coming weeks is to establish a plan for the library’s reopening.

“I think in the next couple weeks we should begin to transition into coming back a couple days a week to prepare for the reopening …,” she said. “I’m hoping that happens sometime in May.”

As plans move forward for a new Pocomoke branch, Ranck told board members she presented site options and schematics to the Worcester County Commissioners this week.

Resulting from those conversations, she said, was the desire for more information related to the cost of a new facility. She said the discussion was focused on a building that was shared between the library and the senior center on a piece of property offered by the City of Pocomoke.

“They wanted a detailed cost estimate …,” she said. “I’ve got some companies to go ahead and do that already and we should have that done in May.”

Ranck told the board this week each of the county departments had been asked to reduce its budget requests for the coming fiscal year by 5%. She said the library has made changes to personnel and book costs and removed a new vehicle from its budget to accommodate the county’s request.

“We should still be in good shape,” she said. “I understand the need for that reduction.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.