LAKEWOOD, Ohio — More than two months after reopening its doors and offering in-person services at its Main Library and Madison Branch, Lakewood Public Library has yet to allow members back into its technology center located at the Detroit Avenue branch.
That decision has caused quite a bit of vocal derision from patrons desperate for computer access.
“Safety is our biggest priority and anybody who has ever been in the technology center room knows that it’s not very large and air ventilation is a bit of a problem,” Lakewood Public Library Public Services Librarian Andrea Fisher said. “Some suggested we could have fans blowing.
“We consulted with the Cleveland Clinic, which said that’s one of the worst things we could do. As far as spacing out computers, that’s hard to do because of the aisles and the fact they’re hardwired into the desks, which means we can’t move them to another room.”
With eight-foot high ceilings, the roughly 1,000-square-foot technology center includes more than 50 computers, which prove quite popular. This is also problematic.
“Many of our patrons who come in to use the computer need a lot of help,” Fisher said. “It puts us in an uncomfortable position because of the whole issue of proximity (related to social distancing). So it’s a tough decision. It’s a tough thing.
“We’re all sick of COVID, its impact on our lives and how we can’t do things that we’d like to do. A lot of the criticism is emotional, and I totally get that. We’re not trying to keep anyone away. The decision was not an easy one to arrive at by any stretch. It’s something we feel badly about every day.”
A solution may be on the horizon in the form of the Lakewood Public Library purchasing laptop computers that could be checked out for use in the reading room where there’s more space allowing for proper social distancing.
Fisher said that option, which could be in place by the end of the year, would mirror the Lakewood Public Library’s current program offering students the use of signed-out Chromebooks within the facility.
“The library continues to serve its patrons amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but in new and different ways,” Lakewood Public Library Director James Crawford said.
“Before reopening to the public, the library utilized Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 consulting services to determine the best practices to safely resume operations. Patron and employee safety are the Library’s first priority.”
Previously only open weekdays, last weekend both branches extended hours to include being open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
“The library remains more vital than ever,” Fisher said. “We’ve had to be agile and creative for the last 100 years. COVID certainly has thrown a curve ball in how we’ve done service.
“I’m confident that we will come up with a solution, we’ll be able to bridge that gap again and that it will come hopefully soon. It’s just not going to look the way it did before.”
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