Cody Strawser/News Library clerk Jennie Malone cleans the check-out desk at the Fredericktown Community Library. Fredericktown and the main branch in Mount Vernon opened to the public Monday.

Cody Strawser/Mount Vernon News

Library clerk Jennie Malone cleans the check-out desk at the Fredericktown Community Library. Fredericktown and the main branch in Mount Vernon opened to the public Monday. Request this photo

 

FREDERICKTOWN — There are some obvious changes at the Fredericktown Community Library.

For one, there are fewer computer terminals available.

The Fredericktown branch and the main branch of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County reopened Monday under restrictions due to COVID-19. The restrictions have changed a lot of things at both libraries.

Normally the Fredericktown Library has seven computers available for use, but the number of computers has been cut back to three for patrons to maintain social distancing. Computers are sanitized after each use.

Patrons are only permitted to be in the libraries for an hour at a time.

“We are following the same guidelines as the Mount Vernon library,” said Janelle Cothren, the Branch Manager for the Fredericktown Community Library.

No meetings or programs are scheduled in the Fredericktown library building, but the kids’ room is open.

“We are handing out craft bags to kids instead of having our summer reading program,” said Cothren.

Sanitation of returned materials will mean they won’t return to the shelves as quickly as they would have before.

“We put the books in quarantine for about a week after they are returned to the dropbox or to a special shelf that we ask patrons to put the returned books on,” said Cothren.

Returned items will sit for three days to a week, said Knox County Library Director John Chidester.

“The general consensus is that three to seven days is long enough for COVID-19 to not be able to survive on library books,” Chidester said. “This information is based on a study done by the Battelle Memorial Institute that we are helping out with. That’s why we are letting the items sit.”

The staff of the Fredericktown Community Library has an optimistic view of re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We missed our patrons,” said Cothren. “We’re glad to be back open.”

The same social distancing and health safety requirements exist at the Fredericktown library as they do at the Mount Vernon library.

“Patrons are strongly encouraged to wear masks,” said Cothren. “We offer free masks for those who don’t have them.”

The bathrooms in the building are opened and sanitized several times a day.

Fredericktown is limiting the number of patrons permitted in the building at one time to ten, because they are a much smaller building than the Mount Vernon building.

Curb-side pickup will continue at the Fredericktown Community Library as well as Mount Vernon. People can call into the library, use their e-mail, or go on the library website and use the chat feature to request library materials for curbside pick-up.

“Just in case someone isn’t comfortable picking something up in person, we will continue curbside pickup,” said Cothren. “It can be scary for some people to come to the library in person during the pandemic.”

There have been some unfortunate circumstances for the staff at the Mount Vernon Library since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“We’ve had to lay off over half our staff,” said Chidester. “We’re tax-supported and because of the economic downturn we took a big hit and couldn’t afford all the staff we had.”

There is good news for the Knox County library system, though. Other branches of the library system will soon be opening up as well. Danville is opening up in approximately one week. The Gambier library is going to stay closed for the time being because of a shortage of staff. There has been some talk of volunteers helping open the Gambier Library, Chidester said.

The Mount Vernon library used to have eight computers available to the general public. They’ve cut the computer usage down to four computers to help with social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. A shower curtain separates one side of the computers from another and the computers are sanitized with ultra-violet light. There is a 30-minute limit per person.

It is highly recommended that one wears a mask when in the library, and masks or face shields are a requirement for staff at the library to wear. The library provides masks for people who want them and don’t have them. The library is also providing hand sanitizing stations for people as they walk in the building of the library. Twenty people are permitted on each floor of the library at one time, not including the staff of the library. The same social distancing restrictions that apply to the adult areas of the library also apply to the children’s areas.

The bathrooms in the library are open and are sanitized several times a day. The library itself is also routinely sanitized.

“Even pre-pandemic we were a sanitary place,” said Chidester. “We have a very good cleaning staff and they have been very meticulous about keeping things spotless.”

The solarium and the teen space are closed for the time being. There are currently no programs for people to come into the library for, but there are online programs that people can find more information about on the library website, such as an online library teen program. The only exception to the no in-person programming rule for the library is the blood drive that the library is hosting today, June 16, from 12:30-5:30 p.m., though social distancing will apply.

There are tents set up in the parking lot from 10 a.m. until noon Tuesday through Friday for kids to receive their summer reading program material. The tents are so the kids don’t have to come into the building.

All Knox County-affiliated libraries will be waving all fines that were accrued during the pandemic. The grace period will last for two weeks after the libraries have opened and may be extended.

“People shouldn’t be worrying about their library fines,” said Chidester. “We’ll take care of them when the person brings their materials back in.”

The Mount Vernon library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 8 p.m.

The Fredericktown Community Library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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Cody Strawser: 740-397-5333 or cody@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews