The MidPointe Library in Middletown has removed the doors to their restrooms, which as helped curb drug use at their facility. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Butler County libraries opening for drive-thru, curbside services

Those moves come at a time when the school years for many students have ended or are ending soon, and Butler County residents who remain working or staying at home need things to do. Libraries have touted their virtual access to collections and items during this time, but many have wanted to return to the physical buildings.

With MidPointe’s move, “folks are able to pick up their library holds,” said Cari Hillman, community engagement director. “They just need to log on to their library account online, and they’re able to request whatever item they’d like.”

When the items are ready, they can pull up to the library, “give us a text or a call when they arrive, and we run the items right on out to their car, shut the trunk and they’re on their way,” Hillman said. “This is our contact-less way of still being able to get folks their library materials.”

Both library systems are receiving returns of items, but only through drop-off containers (at MidPointe, those are at Middletown, Trenton and West Chester). Each system is quarantining materials for four days for customer safety.

At the Lane Libraries, “people are very happy that they have access back to the library, even though it’s limited,” said spokeswoman Carrie Mancuso.

“We will, I’m sure, tweak things as we go, and as we learn, but the staff has taken a very careful, very thoughtful approach, to how we are going to do all this, and be able to make it happen,” Mancuso said.

“It was very difficult for us not to be able to engage with our patrons in a traditional way, and we know as much as people enjoy ebooks, e-audiobooks, our virtual programming, sometimes there’s just no replacing a traditional library book. We know folks missed that, and the feedback on our social media has been absolutely tremendous.”

MidPointe’s drop-off service is available Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lane Library’s drive-through hours are Monday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. Reference librarians are available those same hours.

Mancuso noted Lane Libraries also have had the online services throughout the crisis, even as branches were closed. Among those, the Summer Reading program started on May 1 instead of June 1, for children and adults.

When will branches open?

One gap that both library systems know remains are the computers and other services they normally provide people who are looking for jobs.

Neither library group knows when branches themselves will reopen, but both are making plans — as “non-essential businesses” in Ohio, they are not yet authorized to reopen yet, “nor do we feel it is safe at this time to open our buildings back up,” Mancuso said. “That will be the next step, but we don’t have a date on what that next step will be yet.”

MidPointe already has installed barriers at service desks and is making social distancing plans for when the time comes.

“I know everybody’s really anxious to be able to get back to a true normal and come into the buildings,” Mancuso said, “but we have a job to do this the right way, and a safe way, and so the phased approach to reopening is important, and obviously we’re beginning with the first phase this week.”

Both libraries are discussing best practices for safety and physical-distancing procedures with other libraries across the state and country.

Using the libraries digitally

Here are some other services available:

MidPointe’s eLibrary includes ebooks, audiobooks, managzines, movies and music available for download. There is also virtual programming, such as storytimes for the children, at the system’s YouTube page. Also, the libraries have left their wifi working, and people have been using it from all locations’ parking lots, including to apply for jobs, and families streaming classes for students.

Lane Libraries have a Summer Reading program, which started May 1 this year instead of the usual June 1, and includes prizes. It continues until Aug. 1. When branches open, there may be “grab-and-go” kits available for children’s crafts, which are just part of that program.

Lane Libraries online also offer ebooks, audiobooks, movies and videos, and free magazine subscriptions with a library card. There also are online research databases, including one where you can learn a language for free, and another where you can take music or art lessons, also free.

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