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 The Farmington Community Library’s Farmington Hills and Farmington branches are currently closed to the public, but they have been offering contactless curbside pickup as of July 6.

The Farmington Community Library’s Farmington Hills and Farmington branches are currently closed to the public, but they have been offering contactless curbside pickup as of July 6.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Farmington Community Library announces phased plans for reopening

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 7, 2020

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FARMINGTON/HILLS — More than three months after closing its branches’ doors, the Farmington Community Library board of directors have announced their  plans to reopen the library in a series of phases.

The library continued to provide digital services throughout its closure starting March 14, and at press time, the library was in phase two — offering contactless curbside pickup, slated to begin July 6 — of its plan. The library began accepting material returns June 25.

Returned items will be quarantined for at least three days after being received, with Library Director Riti Grover warning patrons they may see materials continue to appear on their account until that 72-hour period is over. Library board President Jim White said the library has more than 30,000 materials that need to be returned. Items are not due back until July 31.

Moving into phase three, which has a yet-to-be-determined timeline, the library will reopen its doors with limited capacity — likely 50%, White said — and limited services. Patrons will be assisted by library staff to retrieve materials during this phase, and self-checkouts will be used to reduce touch points.

Phase four will see the library improve its physical services, moving away from contactless pickup and resuming use of the hold shelves. While the library won’t be able to offer full seating, study rooms or in-person programming, computer and equipment access will be available, as well as limited seating. By phase five, the library plans to resume all normal services.

All summer programming will be virtual at least through phase five.

While the library had already been working on a reopening strategy the last few months, White said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s easing of some executive orders — including the Safer at Home order — June 8 made the board of directors feel comfortable moving toward reopening.

“We just needed to be sure that we had all the personal protective equipment in place (and) all the guidelines in place. We have training in place when we get staff back on board so they can be trained and feel confident. We have the systems and processes in place to receive the items and then kick into curbside mode,” Grover said. “It was the preparation time that made us feel comfortable, and of course the governor’s executive order giving us the green light that we could open now.

“We wanted to be cautious that we are taking every measure required to cover our end and felt this was the time. We are ready to get our stuff back and welcome people with open arms when we can.”

White said the nonessential staff that was laid off April 24 — a decision that upset some in the community — will return to the library in phases, as well. He said the library has already begun to call some back as they need more staff to help with material returns and curbside pickups.

The decision to furlough staff was not an easy one, White said. The decision was based on looking at a number of major repairs needed at both branches of the library — estimated to cost over a million dollars — coupled with the uncertainty of the library’s budget, which is 90% based on property taxes, White said, moving into the new fiscal years. In order to ensure those major projects could be completed and still ensure staff were getting paid adequately if not more, they ended at the final decision.

Grover and White said they’re both eager to reopen their doors, but they remain cautious of moving too fast.

“We do know there’s a high demand for service. People have not been able to refresh their supply of library items since mid-March. We’re finally going to be able to provide them the opportunity to get new materials … but there’s so many things we can’t provide yet,” White said. “I’m hesitant for a number of reasons. I don’t want to hold people back from being able to use their library at all, but on the other hand, we’re just not ready. We just don’t know— God forbid, we don’t want to be the Harper’s of libraries.”

Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub in East Lansing quickly became a hotspot for positive COVID-19 cases, with more than 20 positive cases from people who had visited the bar between June 12-20 being reported June 22. Numbers continued to skyrocket in the days following, with more than 40 positive cases a day later, roughly 85 cases by June 27, and at least 138 cases as of July 2.

Grover added that she’s excited to be able to get some new materials into library patrons’ hands, but she remains “cautiously optimistic” amidst the changing landscape and the difficulty of forecasting too far out. One thing Grover is certain of, and has learned through this pandemic, is the demand for digital services. She said use of the library’s digital catalogue has spiked tremendously, which has fueled her to want to continue to improve and invest in those services even beyond the pandemic.

Beyond that, Grover said pandemic-related aspects such as more sanitizer stations, maintaining more distance between library spaces, and possibly even curbside pickup if the desire is there will likely continue on after phase five.

“The library will be stepping into a service module assessment so that we are in a position to serve our community to the best of our abilities now, during the pandemic, post-pandemic in regular times and for years to come,” Grover said.

For more information on the Farmington Community Library’s reopening strategy, visit farmlib.org/reopening.

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