Library reopens next Monday with new interior design, health measures to restrict COVID-19
HORNELL — The Hornell Public Library is ready to write the next chapter in its story.
And the recent uptick in Canisteo Valley COVID-19 infections is not expected to have a drastic impact on the community’s use of the library when the building reopens on Dec. 7 for the first time since March 14.
Library officials say close adherence to measures restricting the spread of the virus, along with the redesigned interior of the building, will help safeguard the health of employees and patrons.
According to library trustees, under COVID-19 regulations, the library will be permitted to have 36 people on the bottom floor and 17 people on the main floor at any given time.
Under normal circumstances — which are governed by the local fire codes — the library is restricted to 72 people on the bottom floor and 35 people on the main floor. However, officials point out that library use in more typical times rarely exceeds what will be allowed during the current pandemic emergency.
“Normal traffic flow of patrons is well below those COVID-19 limits,” confirmed Joe Liberto, vice president of the library board of trustees.
Group gatherings for activities like classes, presentations and meetings will be limited to ten people, regardless of what floor they are held on.
The library’s safety measures to limit the spread of the virus are already familiar to most people, library board members said. Visitors will be required to wear appropriate face masks and socially distance by six feet, while seating will be limited to two patrons per table.
The library has undergone extensive changes in advance of the reopening. According to trustees, staff have installed sneeze guards, hand sanitizing stations and stanchions for traffic flow, while instructional signs are in place for patron and employee protection. Floor plans and furniture arrangement have been modified to be compliance with federal ADA regulations.
Library employees have also received training in customer service, procedures and COVID-19 prevention practices.
“Great pains have been taken in the sanitizing and cleaning of the library,” Liberto told The Spectator last month.
Additionally, the major interior redesign of the library, which included clearing out clutter and freeing up new space for patrons, is expected to enhance the new health protocols.
“More space will allow patrons to properly social distance and commune in a safe manner while frequenting the library,” Liberto said.
A team of volunteers, board members and staff have spearheaded the work.
Norm Ellis, Board of Trustees president, applied his master carpentry skill in custom building an oak wood magazine rack, the Little Library, modifying an endless array of book shelves allowing for more seating space, re-roofing an outdoor storage shed and rewiring electrical outlets.
The library’s reopening is taking place as COVID-19 cases continue to plague the region.
While the Steuben Public Health Department has reported dozens of new coronavirus infections in recent weeks, any decision to close the library’s doors again will not rest with local officials. The Hornell Public Library is a member of the New York State Library Association — a division of the New York State Education Department. As such, the state Board of Regents is the governing agency, under the direction of the governor, with the authority to issue a directive for closure due to COVID-19.
“We will close if a directive is issued by the governor. Public schools and museums also come under the authority of the Board of Regents,” Liberto said.
The library will be open from noon until 7 p.m., Monday thru Thursday; 1 until 5 p.m. on Fridays; and 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday.