The West Bloomfield Township Public Library has gone back to the hours it had prior to the pandemic. Pictured is youth librarian Jennifer Pickles.

The West Bloomfield Township Public Library has gone back to the hours it had prior to the pandemic. Pictured is youth librarian Jennifer Pickles.

Photo by Deb Jacques


West Bloomfield library removes time restrictions, opens study areas

Youth activity center remains closed

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 23, 2021

 Aside from expanding hours, the West Bloomfield Township Public Library has reopened study rooms and restored seating inside its facility.

Aside from expanding hours, the West Bloomfield Township Public Library has reopened study rooms and restored seating inside its facility.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield Township Public Library has advanced to its latest phase of a plan to return to normal operations, returning to pre-pandemic hours.

As of Sept. 7, patrons can frequent the library 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the West Acres branch is open noon-5 p.m., and the main branch noon-6 p.m.

“That’s exciting,” said Library Director Cathy Russ. “And we’ve also reopened the study rooms and restored the furniture and seating throughout the building, so students can come back and study and take advantage of those spaces — the quiet spaces in the library to study. … Those, I think, are the two big differences that people will see when they come back: the library is open more hours, and I would say most of our services have been restored.”

Time restrictions have also been lifted, meaning patrons can utilize the library for an unlimited amount of time during open hours.

Time restrictions for public computer use were also lifted.

Russ began working for West Bloomfield’s library less than a year ago.

“I have not seen the library in this phase because I’ve been here nine months now, so it’s wonderful to see people in the library,” she said. “People were using the library through the spring, through the summer, but to have the students back and using the space is great. I like walking through the building and seeing people using the library — because that’s what it’s here for.”

As for masks, they are recommended but not required at this time.

“This is the final phase in our plan, but that’s not to say we couldn’t add a phase,” Russ said. “We are still doing virtual programs for adults and children, and so in-person programming has not been restored, and we are (going to) continue with virtual programming, at least through the end of 2021.”

Russ said the library doesn’t want to encourage large groups of people to gather, which is one of the reasons there is still a halt on in-person programming.

“It’s different for studying, because the study rooms are small groups or they’re single-studying,” she said. “Students need to be able to use the library, and they can sit one or two people at a table. That’s not a big group, but our programs tend to attract a large in-person crowd indoors, and we don’t encourage that at this time.”

Aside from not returning to in-person programming as of yet, according to Russ, toys that would encourage children from different households to congregate together in the youth services area have not been put out.

“That’s a difference from pre-COVID, and we also do not have the youth activity center open,” she said. “We’re using that as our programming studio so we can do our virtual programs from that space and do our story times from that space. So that’s a difference, as well.”

Preparing to restore some aspects of library service took some effort on the part of staff members.

“It was a huge project to restore all the furniture,” Russ said. “So much of it had been stored in the study room. That was a two-week process to restore all the furniture and basically get the library safe and ready to receive visitors in the study rooms. That was probably the biggest task, but we’re excited to have people back, excited for the start of the school year. … It’s great to see so many people using the library.”

The study rooms were also on the mind of Main Library Branch Manager Jeff Crocker.

“We have people coming back in to study,” he said. “I think we were anticipating that the study rooms would be just as popular, if not more, once we reopened. The library isn’t as busy as it was pre-COVID; it’s still ramping back up, but we are seeing students coming over after school using our study rooms.”

Even prior to becoming a staff member, Russ was familiar with the West Bloomfield Township Public Library.

“I have visited this library prior to the pandemic, and it was a busy and well-used place,” Russ said. “It’s a well-loved and well-used community resource, and that’s part of the reason why I wanted to come here. So I knew about (the) West Bloomfield Library before I came here, and I’m looking forward to seeing that in action.”

Crocker said he has worked for West Bloomfield’s library for 17 years. Like Russ, he understands how popular it has been in the community and would like for the good ‘ol days to return.

“If (you’ve) worked here for a long time, you know how busy this place is, kind of like a hub in the community, and to not see people in here, it’s disheartening,” he said. “So I think we’re all ready to see the community back again.”

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