Library reverts to drive-thru, express services due to rising COVID-19 cases

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 20, 2020

 Due to rising cases of COVID-19, the library has stepped back to drive-thru and express services only.

Due to rising cases of COVID-19, the library has stepped back to drive-thru and express services only.

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Public Library

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ROCHESTER — After months of being open, the Rochester Hills Public Library has once again closed the majority of its building to the public due to rising cases of COVID-19.

“Given the 12% positivity rate of the virus in Oakland County and knowing we have alternatives for delivering library services, I am confident this is the best course of action to keep our staff, volunteers and community as safe as possible while meeting the needs of our residents,” Library Director Juliane Morian said in a press release.

The move takes the library back to phase four of its reopening plan, which outlines five phases based on COVID-19 activity in the community, allowing the library to revert back to previous phases if COVID-19 cases should rise or new shutdowns are announced.

Since July 6, the library has operated under phase three of its plan — which allowed a limited number of patrons to access the building for one hour and to check out materials for grab-and-go service.

The library reverted to phase four of its reopening plan Nov. 16 in light of data from Oakland County Health Division and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regarding rising cases of COVID-19 in Oakland County and across Michigan.

“I have always maintained that the safety of our staff, volunteers and the public has been a priority during the pandemic and would drive the decision making. We used the best evidence and the best logic that we had,” Morian said.

In phase four, the library steps back to drive-thru and express services only. Library hours remain the same; building access is limited to express pickup and return either in the south entrance/lobby or drive-thru window; holds are checked-out and ready to go; librarians are available to answer questions by phone or email; and the community Bookmobile is off the road.

Library patrons may reserve books, DVDs, kits and more at rhpl.org and may choose to pick them up at either the drive-thru window or in the south entrance/lobby. Morian said holds will already be checked out and ready to go. Patrons can also return library items at the drive-thru window or the south entrance/lobby using the return slots.

Online, patrons can borrow e-books, audiobooks, movies, music, TV shows and more. The library added more digital titles for circulation and will expand its WiFi access to the south and west parking lots for people to use while sitting in their cars. The library will continue to lend laptops bundled with WiFi hotspots for use at home, which may be reserved online and picked up at the drive-thru window only. Take and Make program supplies are available for pickup at the drive-thru window. Other programs remain online.

Youth Services Manager Betsy Raczkowski said many library needs can be handled over the phone by calling (248) 656-2900 or emailing library management using the Contact Us form at rhpl.org.

“There is still going to be a librarian at the reference desk all open hours, so people will still be able to call with reference questions and readers’ advice. We’ve noticed a big uptick in patrons calling and saying, ‘My kids really liked this book, could you pull maybe five books that they would like to read?’ And that’s one of our favorite things to do. I really encourage people to use us in that way, which is something we call readers advisory. We’re really well-versed in what’s out there right now, and we love making suggestions for kids,” she said.

For more information about the Rochester Hills Public Library’s response to the novel coronavirus, visit rhpl.org/covid-19 or call (248) 656-2900.

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