Troy library bounces back after COVID-related closure

Shortage of part-time staffers takes a toll

By: Eric Czarnik | Troy Times | Published September 22, 2020

 Plexiglass is set up in front of the youth desk at the Troy Public Library in anticipation of when the building eventually reopens to the public. For now, the library is operating via curbside and online services.

Plexiglass is set up in front of the youth desk at the Troy Public Library in anticipation of when the building eventually reopens to the public. For now, the library is operating via curbside and online services.

Photo provided by Phillip Kwik

 The youth computer area is set up for social distancing.

The youth computer area is set up for social distancing.

Photo provided by Phillip Kwik

 A library sign reminds staff to practice social distancing.

A library sign reminds staff to practice social distancing.

Photo provided by Phillip Kwik

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TROY — The Troy Public Library has gotten a clean bill of health to resume the curbside loaning of books and other materials Sept. 21 after the building had to shut down for part of the prior week due to COVID-19.

The city of Troy announced Wednesday, Sept. 16, that the library would close its operations at 2 p.m. that day until 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21. The stated reason was that a library worker had been tested for COVID-19 and was confirmed to have it.

As a result, a state executive order required a building closure of 72 hours for deep cleaning, the library said, adding that the closure meant the temporary suspension of answering phones, dropbox return availability and curbside pickup.

“The 72-hour closure will also ensure that all materials in the facility meet the 72-hour quarantine, as recommended by the CDC for the safety of employees and patrons,” the city’s statement said, referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Troy Library Director Cathy Russ explained that even though the building had to close, the library still allowed patrons to check out digital services and materials 24-7.

“You can download books, e-books, audiobooks, movies — and we have a lot of streaming services,” she said.

With the library back open for staff, Russ said, the library is still offering curbside delivery of library materials 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays. The original plan was to start doing Saturday curbside service Sept. 19, but the COVID-19 incident delayed the schedule for that until the following Saturday, Sept. 26, she said.

Russ said one reason the library’s interior hasn’t reopened to general patronage or browsing is that she is more than 50% short of workers in her circulation department.

“I have six part-time staff members doing the work of 14 part-time staff members,” she said. “Many staff members who were part-time in the circulation department opted not to come back to work amid concerns over working with the public and COVID. In the occurrence of two weeks, we lost five more members to full-time jobs. It was just a perfect storm.”

Russ said the library is working toward filling those positions. Besides the shortage of staff, the library decided to stick with curbside service because it was more inclusive, she explained.

“With curbside, we can see everybody. If we open the building ... not everyone would come in,” she said. “Curbside is the option for people who can’t wear a mask, who won’t wear a mask, or people who are uncomfortable coming into the building.”

Russ added that whenever the library’s interior does reopen to the public, it’s equipped to do so.

“The building is ready,” she said. “There’s plexiglass around the public service desks. We have the social distancing markers.”

Find out more about the Troy Public Library, 510 W. Big Beaver Road, by visiting troypl.org or by calling (248) 524-3538.

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