Residents will be asked to limit their visit time.
The Braden River Library was silent June 3.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the library was filled with dozens of people browsing or sitting at tables reading.
On June 3, though, only five employees were inside preparing curbside pickup orders.
Cathy Habora, a library assistant, stood at the circulation desk checking out a small pile of books before placing them in a brown paper bag and taking them outside and putting them on a table for a resident to take home.
That all changed June 9, when the Braden River Library reopened with four other Manatee County library branches. The Central Library opened June 8. The county libraries hadn’t allowed the public inside since March 18.
Staff members at the Braden River Library said they are excited to have the doors of the library open again. Manatee County Libraries started curbside pickup June 1 after being closed since March 18 due to COVID-19.
Cathy Laird, the interim library services manager, said libraries won’t be able to continue curbside pickup now that they’re open because of the manpower it takes to keep curbside going.
While the libraries were closed, Manatee County Libraries created different forms of online content, such as virtual story times, classes, and book and movie discussion groups, which had been a goal for the library system anyway.
“It’s been an opportunity for us to grow,” Laird said. “Now we have the experience under our belt, and I think we’ll continue with [online content]. Libraries are growing and changing. The community around us changes, and we grow with it.”
For the time being, the library will have a person at the front desk counting the number of people entering and leaving the building to limit occupancy, will have less comfortable seating and will remove toys and puzzles from the children’s area.
The county libraries won’t offer in-person story times or allow groups to use the meeting rooms to avoid groups gathering. Visitors will be encouraged to wear face masks.
“We’re not encouraging people to come, stay, sit and spend the day,” Laird said. “If you can only have so many people in the building at a time, if they stay all day, that means other people can’t get in. People will still be able to come in and browse the stacks and select what they want to check out from the movies and the books. It’s going to be go in, do your work, and get out, and that’s what’s going to feel different.”
Laird isn’t sure what the future holds for libraries but knows people will always want access to libraries.
“[People have been] missing being able to get their hands on stuff,” she said. “A lot of what we offer is entertainment and also learning and knowledge. All of that comes together with a public library, and our citizens have missed having access to that.”
In the week Braden River Library had curbside pickup available, it was flooded with phone calls from people wanting to make appointments to get library materials.
On June 2, the library saw 70 to 80 cars come by its front entrance to pick up books and other materials. On June 3, Braden River Library had 96 appointments scheduled.
“We’ve been very busy,” Laird said. “Having been closed for a couple of months, people are anxious to get their materials.”