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Libraries eye limited return to in-person services

BIXBY LIBRARY VOLUNTEER Shirley Parfitt has been helping Youth Librarian DeAnna Lippman to refresh the Children’s Room to welcome families again when the Library reopens on May 18.

ADDISON COUNTY — The Bixby Memorial Free Library will reopen with limited capacity starting next Tuesday, May 18.
The move comes as Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library has just opened its stacks for limited browsing and Lawrence Memorial Library plans its move from only curbside circulation to adding inside visits beginning June 1.
Many library buildings closed to the public in mid-March, 2020, due to public health restrictions and safety precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that Vermont and Addison County have seen a drastic and continual decline in cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19, and as more people become vaccinated, these libraries are figuring out ways to accomplish a safe, limited reopening for patrons and visitors.
The Bixby Library building will re-open to the public for visits up to 20 minutes long. Book stacks will be open for browsing, and public computers and printing services will be available.
“The limited reopening of our beloved five-town library is another positive signal that our communities are turning a corner on the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bixby Board President Derek Cohen. “Our residents have been wanting to once again visit our wonderful library and we are happy that we can now start to slowly and safely open the doors.”
The library will be open during the following hours for 20-minute visits:
• Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Capacity at the library will be limited and metered for the health and safety of both residents and library staff and volunteers. Brief visits will allow the Library to serve more patrons each day. All visitors will be required to wear face masks and perform a health self-assessment before entering library facilities. The library will also continue to offer online book reservations for those who just wish to stop by to pick up holds.
The reopening follows the Vermont Forward guidance from the state and is enabled by recent returns to pre-COVID staff and volunteer levels.
“Library staff and volunteers are thrilled to begin welcoming community members and visitors back into our building in the safest ways possible, adhering to the recently updated State guidelines,” said Catharine Hays, Bixby Library Director. “We’re confident that the new limited reopening, which features book browsing, checkouts, materials returns and computer use, will provide patrons with the most frequently requested library services. As always, our online digital library is available to cardholders 24/7.”
Study and community rooms and in-person live events and classes are not yet available. The Bixby Library will phase in more services over time, when deemed prudent and safe for all. More detailed information about library services and programming is available on the Bixby website at bixbylibrary.org or by calling 877-2211.
In Middlebury, Ilsley Library last week started offering patrons 20-minute visits. Visitors can come in for browsing and computer use Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Sarah Partridge Library in East Middlebury has browsing hours on Thursdays, 2–6 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m.–12 noon.
Those who have flu-like symptoms are asked not to visit the library. Everyone must wear a mask inside the library.
Ilsley will still offer outside pick-up of books and other materials.
Further information and instruction on requesting materials for pickup can be found online at ilsleypubliclibrary.org/outside-pickup-service.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Library in Bristol are ironing out the details for reopening the North Street building beginning June 1. Coco Moseley, director at Lawrence Library, said the staff and community are excited that people will again be allowed into the building for the first time since it closed in November.
The public will be allowed in, and there will not be an explicit time limit, Moseley said, but they will be encouraged to be brief, and not spend as much time lingering as they have in the past. But restrictions will likely loosen up over the summer if conditions improve.
“We hope to be back to how it was before the pandemic by this fall,” Moseley said.
The Lawrence will continue to offer some services outside, like storytime for kids and curbside pickup.
And masks will be required for those who go inside, and the building will have a limit to the number of visitors at one time, likely around 10 upstairs and only one or two families in the children’s section downstairs. The library will not have an appointment schedule for the meeting rooms downstairs, like they did last year — it was cumbersome.
In preparation, Moseley and staff are gathering material for a pandemic art show, that will include works that people in the community made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for it in the display cases in the front entrance to the library.
Editor’s note: John S. McCright contributed to this story.

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