ERIN BONTEMPT AND MARILYN STEFAN

Library Circulation Clerk Erin Bontempt assists patron Marilyn Stefan from behind a plexiglass shield. The shields were installed in 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Marilyn Stefan visited the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library on Wednesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many area businesses and offices. The library officially reopened Tuesday by appointment only.

“It’s delightful to be able to have access,” said Stefan, ready to go through the stacks in the fiction section. “I have felt like I was blocked off, and everyone was. You just feel like a chunk of your life has been cut off. I missed a friend in the library. It’s good to come back.”

Executive Director Erin Evans agrees.

“That’s what we do is we serve the public,” Evans said. “If you don’t have public, you can’t serve them, so it’s nice to have them back. Patrons have been delighted to be able to come in and choose their own materials. We have a couple of people who have needed to use the PCs to do their taxes.

“We are excited, even though it’s not fully open, to be able to have at least this going.”

Evans said the library has been as busy as possible with limited appointments available.

“A lot of people come by themselves but if they bring kids, that still counts as one appointment, one family, so we’ve had up to 20 people a day,” she said. “Our appointments are full so we are getting a lot of use.”

In addition to plexiglass shields purchased last summer for the book return and checkout counter, other precautions in use to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 include wiping computers and other surfaces down after use and keeping an ample supply of hand sanitizer available throughout the building. Books are quarantined after patrons return them, and patrons are strongly encouraged to wear masks. Restrooms are only available for people with appointments.

Evans said trying to reopen with a pandemic still on is challenging, but the appointment system is a nice segue into hopefully opening more fully later this spring.

People who don’t feel comfortable going into the library yet can still take advantage of the front porch pick-up.

“We’re still taking requests on the phone or online, and then we fill the requests and check them out and people pick them up at the front door,” Evans said. “You don’t have to have an appointment to do that.”

She is holding off on plans to resume programming, especially large crowd programing like the summer reading program.

“We’re still waiting to see over the next few weeks what happens,” Evans explained. “We don’t want to create a situation where we’re a super spreader, especially with children, because we don’t have the capacity here to safely distance everybody if we’ve got 60 kids. So programming is still in a holding pattern.

“But we do hope to at least do a hybrid summer reading program. The state has provided an online platform so that we can do an online reading club. We may use that and then create some of our book lists and craft kits, maybe a couple story times that we have limited kids at. We’re going to do something. It’s just a matter of how to make it safe for everyone.”

Although Evans and other library staff got a lot done during the closure, including weeding outdated and overly loved books out of circulation and opening up the nonfiction stacks, cleaning and reorganizing, they hope they won’t have to backtrack again.

The library follows the Town of Greeneville as far as which stage of reopening it is in. However, if case numbers spike back up again, the library’s board of directors will make the final decision as to whether to remain open.

Thirty-minute appointments are available 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To make an appointment, call 638-5034.

The Cox library remains closed to the public but research services are available through the website.

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