County Libraries Resume Normal Branch Operations

BERLIN – After a successful reopening, library officials say they are taking steps to resume normal branch operations.

In March, the Worcester County Library reopened its five branches to the public in a limited capacity. And last week, all locations expanded service hours.

“On May 3, the branches expanded their hours, and we are basically back to normal operations,” Assistant Director Rachael Stein said in a board meeting this week. “However, we are closing branches 15 minutes earlier to allow staff to clean.”

As part of the library’s reopening plan, no appointments are necessary to enter the library branches. However, patrons are asked to wear their masks and keep their visits brief.

Computers are available for 45-minute sessions on a first-come, first-served basis, and library staff will assist at the copy machines. But officials noted study space, children’s activities and meeting rooms remain unavailable.

“Ocean Pines is going to pilot an opening of its large meeting room on May 15,” Stein noted. “There will be a form the organizer has to fill out signing off that they are going to require masks and social distancing and will have no more than 25% capacity, as well as having a contact tracing form.”

When asked why the library had limited capacity to 25%, Stein noted it would enable users to physically distance themselves.

“You can have six feet of distance with 25%,” she said.

Officials noted materials will still be quarantined for 48 hours, and virtual programs will continue to be posed online.

Contactless pick up of library materials will also continue Monday through Saturday at all branch locations, as well as remote printing services.

On Tuesday, Stein also presented the Worcester County Library Board of Trustees with plans to seek federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Currently, $200 million in pandemic response funding has been earmarked for museums and libraries through the federal relief package. Libraries are also eligible for billions more for library-eligible programs.

Stein said the Worcester County Library will submit its application for funding in the coming weeks, though officials have yet to settle on an amount.

“The American Rescue Plan Act has provided a lot of money to public libraries,” she told board members this week. “It’s being distributed to state library systems and provided through competitive grants. Jen [Ranck, library director] and I are working on a grant application to get some of those funds.”

The deadline to apply is June 1.

“It is a very quick turnaround …,” she said. “We are well into doing research for it. We should have something together in the next couple weeks.”

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.