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CMPL reopens services in phases

No date set for building opening

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published June 23, 2020

 Nicole Dommer, a customer service concierge at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch in Clinton Township, delivers items placed on hold into a patron’s car. The library has been utilizing curbside service.

Nicole Dommer, a customer service concierge at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library Main Branch in Clinton Township, delivers items placed on hold into a patron’s car. The library has been utilizing curbside service.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — For over three months, doors at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library have been closed.

While library buildings are still closed to the public as of June 17, folks may now return items and utilize curbside or do drive-up pickup for items on hold.

At the Main Branch at 49000 Romeo Plank Road in Clinton Township and the North Branch at 16800 24 Mile Road in Macomb Township, holds are available for curbside pickup via appointment. At the South Branch, at 35679 Gratiot Ave., holds are available via the drive-up window.

Earlier this month, Clinton-Macomb Public Library Director Larry Neal said that as soon as new regulations are unveiled for reopening libraries, he would have a better sense of announcing a target date for the libraries to open.

Beginning June 8, the library system started accepting items via the outside return portal. The return service was suspended since mid-March when CMPL announced its temporary closure due to COVID-19.

The week of June 8, Neal said CMPL had 60,000 items checked out.

Since the library system announced its closure to in-person services, folks were asked to not return items. Late fines have not been assessed during the pandemic, and overdue dates have been extended through at least Aug. 4.

“With returns, we’re quarantining items for 72 hours,” CMPL Community Relations Specialist Jamie Morris said.     

On June 10, curbside/drive-up window delivery of items on hold started up, then June 15, phone service during regular hours resumed. Over 2,500 items have been placed on hold.

“We see curbside as a way to start getting items in people’s hands,” Neal said. “We’re scheduling appointments to start because we know there’s big demand and we don’t want to frustrate people by having long lines to pick up their items.”

Folks will have a one-hour time frame to stop by the library to collect materials. The link to make an appointment for pick up will be sent to a patron’s hold notification account.

Neal was hopeful that an executive order will be made soon with more specific requirements for how libraries can safely reopen.

“We’ll make sure that each area of the library is safe with signage, by moving furniture around,” Neal said. “We’ll have to maintain social distancing, so we don’t know if we’ll be able to open computer labs to start.”

Neal believes, for the library, the pandemic will be remembered as a test at how resilient it is during a crisis.

“We were one of the first libraries in the state to participate with Macomb County in preparing for an outbreak of some sort, envisioning something terrorist related.” Neal said. “We asked if we could have a strong virtual presence even under the most difficult of situations, and we did. We hoped we offered some comfort and sanity.”

As the pandemic unfolded through the spring, the library developed three priorities for its service philosophy – to protect people, to continue operating as an essential community service and to maintain regular communication.

“As schools started to close, the library provided an essential role in homework support and reading,” Neal said. “Libraries play a critical role in keeping kids reading and being able to do homework.”

Realizing that summer events and library programs would be changing, Morris was tasked with repurposing the library’s summer newsletter, which was ready to be published, to a “virtually yours” issue.

“We didn’t want the message to the public to be that this and that was canceled,” Neal said. “They had so much bad news in their life and we wanted our message to be positive and proactive.”

Since materials couldn’t physically be checked out from the library, e-content checkouts experienced a 47% increase in March, April and May compared to the previous six-month average. In April and May, over 17,000 items were checked out electronically.

“A couple of our departments have started doing Facebook live chats where they recommend books and the librarians have a discussion,” Morris said. “It gives adults an opportunity to connect with librarians they haven’t seen in person in a while.”

In regard to summertime programs, Morris said the library isn’t canceling them; rather,  it’s shifting the focus to virtual events.

Some July events happening via Zoom are “Reset & Refresh: Fight Computer Fatigue” July 15, July 22 and July 29; “Snapology: Mythical Creatures” July 21; and “TechKnowKids: Science of Ice Cream” July 17. All the Zoom events are scheduled for 10 a.m.

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