Hills­dale’s Mossey Library has remained open despite decreased atten­dance and cir­cu­lation. Courtesy | External Affairs

As quar­antine becomes a way of life for most people, indi­viduals aren’t the only ones affected. Libraries are among the many city ser­vices that have had to work overtime to ensure that they meet their patrons’ needs, but also protect the com­munity from COVID-19.

Joyce Gendron, director of the Waldron Dis­trict Library, said she has seen many impacts from COVID-19 on the library, where she has worked since March 2019. The restric­tions accom­pa­nying the virus have been dif­ficult on patrons, the library’s normal pro­gramming, and even normal oper­ating pro­ce­dures.

“Atten­dance and cir­cu­lation cer­tainly have decreased because of it. We also have seen a decrease in our elderly traffic that comes through here,” Gendron said. 

Mossey Library Director Maurine McCourry said she also noticed the impact on library atten­dance by elderly patrons.

“There aren’t as many people from the com­munity coming into the library, espe­cially retirees,” McCourry said.

Along with the decrease in traffic, to remain within state guide­lines, public libraries have to limit the number of patrons allowed into the library at one time, shorten hours, and even cancel events. 

“Right now we are at 30% capacity,” Grendon said. This capacity limit has led to many libraries strug­gling to con­tinue with their nor­mally scheduled events. 

Waldron Dis­trict Library isn’t the only library scram­bling to try to find a way to con­tinue serving their com­mu­nities. Mary Hill, director of Hillsdale Com­munity Library, dis­cussed the alter­native ser­vices they have been pro­viding like curbside pickup and online events.

“We’re really depending upon social media because we can’t phys­i­cally have events in the building,” Hill said. 

Gendron dis­cussed some of the other mea­sures that her library is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their com­munity. 

“When patrons bring books in, we quar­antine them for three days,” Gendron said. Hillsdale Com­munity Library goes even further: quar­an­tining the books for six days after their return, not allowing the checkout of mag­a­zines, and lim­iting com­puter use. These mea­sures have all just become parts of the normal routine for public libraries.

Public libraries have had to face yet another struggle: the prospect of less funding.

“Since library funding in Michigan is so tied up in state and federal funding, it gives us few oppor­tu­nities to buck the system,” Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford said. 

As a part of an edu­ca­tional insti­tution, Mossey Library has not had to meet as many require­ments as public libraries, McCourry said, adding that no pro­grams or events were can­celed last semester, and spring events should take place as scheduled.

Nev­er­theless, Mossey Library has had to follow some reg­u­la­tions because of its acces­si­bility to the public. 

“The state health department order applies to us because we are open to the public,” McCourry said. “If we only allowed stu­dents, faculty, and staff to come in here, we wouldn’t have to be abiding by the same kind of orders.” 

While all these restric­tions have pre­sented a chal­lenge, overall, local libraries have been sup­ported in their endeavors. 

“We feel really sup­ported by the college,” McCourry said. “They’ve really tried hard to keep it safe, but also keep us going.” 

Stockford also con­veyed his appre­ci­ation for the librarians of Hillsdale County. 

“Our librarians in Hillsdale truly believe in the stated mis­sions of libraries,” Stockford said. “They don’t see it as just a job as much as a public service, and we appre­ciate their efforts tremen­dously.”

The return to a pre-COVID-19 world has been slow, but it is coming. Hill said that there has been an uptick in the number of people coming into the library and that she hopes this number will con­tinue to go up as things return to some nor­malcy. 

“Just let people know we are open,” she said.