Libraries in Amherst, Holyoke opening to public next week

  • Books to be picked up at the door of Jones Library in Amherst which will be open to the public on Monday, June 14. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hank Allan, the IT coordinator at Jones Library in Amherst, sets up public computers in the reference department to get ready for the library to reopen to the public on Monday, June 14th. The library will have about half the computers it usually does and they will be distanced six feet apart. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jessica Lamsen sits behind newly installed Plexiglass while George Hicks-Richards, the director of facilities at Jones Library in Amherst talks about what staff have done to reopen, including installing HEPA filters and taking the toys out of the children’s room. “Children are one of our biggest service populations and they can’t get vaccinated, they don’t have a choice,” Hicks-Richards said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cyndi Harbeson, head of special collections, and George Hicks-Richards, the director of facilities at Jones Library in Amherst, look at one of the three ESL tutoring stations that were moved to a more spacious place. “I am so excited for in-person visits,” Harbeson said. “We opened up in special collections and they were our first three appointments. They are coming right back.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Books to be picked up at the door of Jones library in Amherst which will be open to the public on Monday, June 14. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hank Allan, the IT coordinator at Jones Library in Amherst, sets up public computers in the reference department to get ready for the library to reopen to the public on Monday, June 14th. They will have about half the computers they usually do and they will be distanced six feet apart. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2021 4:36:35 PM

AMHERST – Public libraries throughout the region are reopening and returning to somewhat normal, if at times more limited, operations.

At the special collections room at the Jones Library in Amherst, which hasn’t been open to the public since March 2020, patrons have called, emailed or used an online form to book appointments.

“It’s gratifying to have all our regulars back,” said curator Cynthia Harbeson about those who will be accessing the historic resources during Monday’s reopening.

The Jones and the Holyoke Public Library will be among the final buildings to open their doors, with both allowing the public inside starting next week.

Staff at the Jones is excited about having people back, said facilities supervisor George Hicks-Richards. “We look forward to seeing them,” Hicks-Richards said.

To ensure safety, a requirement remains in place that everyone ages 2 and older wear masks. There will also be capacity limits and HEPA air filters set up.

“In a nutshell, all of the public service areas will have plexiglass and social distance markings,” Hicks-Richards said.

In Holyoke, patrons can enter the library between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays to select and pick up library items, or continue using curbside services and online resources. Those who do enter the building will be required to wear masks if they are at least 5 years old.

Limited in-person services, such as browsing and checkout, photocopying and faxing, will be available, but public seating and restrooms will not be open.

There also will be a requirement of signing in for contact-tracing purposes, based on Board of Health advice, and patrons are encouraged to limit their time in the building.

At the Jones, initial hours will be Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. The branch libraries, Munson and North Amherst, will continue to offer only outdoor pick up of materials placed on hold.

Up to 50 patrons at a time will be able to browse the collections, borrow items, pick up holds, get a library card, use a computer, use copying, scanning and printing services and use restrooms. Along with special collections by appointment, tutors can hold English as a Second Language tutoring sessions, with space carved out in two rooms and on a stairway landing.

But, as in Holyoke, no seating will be available, in-person programs will not be held and technology assistance will not be available. Those will come in future phases of reopening, Hicks said. People are advised to stay in the building for 30 minutes or less.

Like its peers, the Forbes Library in Northampton is requiring all people older than 2 to wear face coverings. This week Forbes expanded browsing and self-service hours, with the hours Monday 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

When the library first resumed services, it was closed midday Tuesday through Friday, but that is no longer the case. In addition, materials placed in the drop boxes are not being quarantined and are returning to circulation as soon as staff can process them.

The South Hadley Public Library and Gaylord Memorial Library, and the Hadley Public Library, do not mandate face coverings. In South Hadley, for those who are vaccinated, masks are optional, but those who haven’t yet gotten their shots or are at risk of illness are advised to keep face coverings on.

Hadley encourages masks as part of keeping the building safe for the many children under 12 who can’t yet get vaccinated.

South Hadley is open for a full schedule, opening daily at 9:30 a.m., and closing at 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, closing at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and closing at 1 p.m. on Saturday Gaylord has limited hours, Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Hadley is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 2 to 7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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