Library to reopen March 8

Feb 22, 2021

The Dartmouth Public Library is planning to reopen for patrons starting March 8, according to officials speaking at a Feb. 22 Select Board meeting.

Patrons will likely have to book appointments to enter, with limits on the number of people — probably capped at around two dozen — and the length of time they can stay, officials said.

But the details have yet to be set in stone.

Board of Library Trustees Chair Stanley Bielusiak noted at the meeting that statewide only 39% of municipal libraries are allowing patrons inside.

“We’ve seen some buildings where people are allowed to stay as little as 15 minutes,” he said.

For Dartmouth, officials said that appointments will allow staff to easily trace contacts as well as prevent too many people from waiting outside in potentially inclement weather.

Staff will likely ask patrons up front if they would like to browse the collection, use the computer, or visit the children’s room, and hand sanitizer will be widely available. 

Computers will be spaced six feet apart and will have easy-to-clean keyboard covers.

Both branches of the library have been closed to the public since last March due to Covid. 

But with the town dropping out of the red last week, Director of Libraries Lynne Antunes said, “this is a good time to think about letting people in.”

Since June, the library has offered curbside pickup along with virtual programming for adults and children.

“Our patrons have been very happy with that,” Antunes said at the meeting, noting that more than 10,000 people have used the curbside service since July.

She told the Select Board that the library would continue the service after reopening for those who are more comfortable not entering the building.

Library staff have also added 7,892 items to the collection since July, as well as 455 new ebooks and audiobooks available online, she noted.

“In spite of the fact that people haven’t been into the building, there is a lot going on,” said Bielusiak. “The programming has been going like crazy.”

He noted that for one Christmas ornament-making lesson for kids, the library had participants from as far away as New York and even one from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that libraries aren’t just books anymore,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot available.”

“The library is probably one of the most loved institutions in this town,” said Select Board member David Tatelbaum. “I think there’s been a lot of angst about the library because people love it so much.”

Tatelbaum suggested getting the word out about the reopening plans “as soon as possible” and starting with more restrictions that can slowly be scaled back.

“Hopefully you can peel them away quickly, but you don’t wanna go backwards, and you don’t want to have issues,” he noted.

Library officials also informed the board about building issues with the North Dartmouth Library branch, which was finished last year but closed just over one month later due to Covid.

Contractors have started fixing a leak in the basement, and are currently in talks with a water heater manufacturer about a malfunctioning heater, according to Antunes.

“Everybody’s been working hard to resolve all these issues,” said Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes.