By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
For months, public libraries have wrangled with the consequences of the pandemic. In addition to moving their programming to a virtual format, library staffers have also rethought the physical layout of their spaces to make things safe for the eventual return of patrons.
That time has come. Patrons have been invited back into the library to once again browse shelves, use computers, and chat with the librarians they missed.
The Walpole Public Library is now back to its regular hours, Monday through Saturday. While capacity is capped at 30 visitors at a time, there’s no need to make an appointment prior to visiting. There’s plenty of room for patrons to safely browse; both levels of the library are open for visitors who wish to look through the shelves.
While reservations aren’t needed for general library visits, those who wish to take advantage of the contactless pickup services and study rooms are urged to call ahead. Those who are wary about entering the building are welcome to pick up items using the garden pickup service. Patrons can reserve materials and they will be placed outside in the library’s garden for a no-contact pickup. Those interested should call the circulation desk a call at (508-660-7340) to make an appointment. Study rooms are available for individual use, limited to two hours per day. Those using study rooms must wear a mask while using them, and will be the only person allowed inside. Those interested can call the Reference Desk at (508-660-7341) to reserve one of the study rooms.
For some patrons, the reopening is like taking a breath of fresh air. “It makes everyone feel normal if people even just browse the shelves for a few minutes," explained Walpole Public Library Director Salvatore Genovese. "It’s not like people are staying here hours at a time. Most people who come here are in and out in 15 minutes but they like that they can walk through the shelves, pick up things, and look around. It feels more normal than a lot of the other stuff.” Though people have used the curbside pickup and delivery service that the library has offered, Genovese knows that there’s something special about browsing in person. "People appreciated the delivery service when we were closed and the curbside pickup, but it's not the same experience. Some of our regulars are back, but they're able to grab a newspaper and sit down for ten minutes. It feels normal for them.”
With the reopening, there seems to be even more urgency to return to a fully normal routine at the library. “It's frustrating because people keep asking, 'can we do this, when will this happen?' I don't know," explains Genovese. He and Walpole's librarians are keeping a careful eye on the case trends, vaccine trials, and the probability of when things might just return to normal. Until then, the Walpole Public Library will be open for browsing and studying, returning a tiny bit of normalcy to this unprecedented moment.