Around Town

‘Browsing’ option expected soon at Athenaeum

WESTFIELD – For patrons who have missed being inside the Westfield Athenaeum due to the coronavirus pandemic, “browsing appointments” will soon be available.
“I will not know until I hear from the Health Department once they have gone over all of our protocols to make sure we are in compliance,” said Kate Deviny, Athenaeum director, on the morning of July 9.
Deviny said she is hopeful by July 15 that 30-minute appointments will be scheduled for both the Boys and Girls Library and the Athenaeum.

Clear barriers are in place to keep Westfield Athenaeum patrons and staff members safe during the coronavirus pandemic. (WESTFIELD ATHENAEUM PHOTO)

“People can move freely between the Boys and Girls Library and the Athenaeum, but only seven patrons are allowed in the children’s area at any one time due to keeping six feet apart,” said Deviny. “There are no toys to be played with in Children’s, so parents might want to limit the number of children they bring with them.”
Deviny and her staff have worked tirelessly for the past several months ensuring that all safety protocols will be in place when the Athenaeum reopens.
“The requirements for libraries include many of the same requirements for other institutions,” said Deviny, noting washing hands frequently, providing hand sanitizer throughout the building, ensuring social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning and sanitizing readily touched surfaces every hour will all be in place.
“If a medical condition makes a mask difficult, then they must have on a shield,” said Deviny.
Also, library staff must quarantine any item that a patron has touched – if they don’t take it.
“Due to the Governor’s guidelines, all items returned or touched by a patron must be quarantined for 24 hours,” said Deviny. “If a patron picks up a book, then it can’t go back on the shelf, so we will have carts around to pick those items up and sequester them for 24 hours.”
Deviny noted at this phase of the reopening, libraries cannot offer restrooms, study rooms, newspapers or water fountains, and although magazines can be checked out, there is no reading in libraries as all seats have been removed.
“The Athenaeum will not be having copying, faxing or computer use until we get a self-copying set up and reconfigure our computers, which will come soon,” she said.
When patrons call for an appointment, they will be coached on new procedures, including returning books to the book drop prior to entering the building, maintaining social distancing throughout their browsing appointment, using sanitizer when immediately entering the building, entering and exiting through the west entrance, and wearing a face mask or shield while in the building.

When the Westfield Athenaeum reopens, signage will be displayed prominently to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed among patrons and staff members. (WESTFIELD ATHENAEUM PHOTO)

“We are also asking patrons not to bring unnecessary bags or backpacks into the Athenaeum,” said Deviny, adding, “We will be disinfecting surfaces and picking up touched items after each group has left.”
 While Deviny and her staff would enjoy chatting and catching up with patrons, she said it is important to remember the virus is transmitted by close contact and 15 minutes of conversation.
“While it would give us great joy to chat, we will ask to keep conversations short,” said Deviny.
Another difference patrons will notice during their visit is that some departments will not be fully staffed at this time.
“Unfortunately, many staff quit due to the coronavirus and we are working our way back up to full staff,” said Deviny. “Right now we have about half our staff which is why our hours are limited.”
Deviny noted the Athenaeum will continue to provide the Library-to-Go service so that patrons do not have to come into the library.
“Many people find their next book by browsing and to browse an appointment is necessary as we need to monitor how many people are in the library,” said Deviny. “Don’t forget our librarians are happy to help you find the next book series you will love as patrons can call us or go to our Reading Advisory sessions online.”
With clear barriers now up and signage posted throughout the building, Deviny is confident that the new browsing option will keep patrons and her staff safe.
“Please be patient with us as we work to provide browsing by appointment,” said Deviny. “We certainly look forward to seeing you, as we have missed you.”
For more information, call (413) 568-7833.

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