By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
It’s been just over a year since the Medfield Public Library shut its doors to patrons for what was expected to be a short time. Except for a brief time in the fall, patrons have since been unable to visit the library without an appointment. All library programs have been moved to Zoom. Books reserved for checkout out were given to patrons via appointment or contactless pickup. With COVID-19 vaccinations now outnumbering the new cases, it seems to be a perfect time to reopen. Starting on Monday, March 29, patrons were welcomed back to the Medfield Library for select hours in the afternoon.
Beginning at two in the afternoon, patrons could visit the library and browse through the shelves of the first floor. Hand sanitizing stations sat just feet from the entrance, ready for visitors to stop by before walking to browse. The front desk had the new addition of clear barriers to allow patrons and staff to interact without worry. Those who wished to take out materials used their library cards or their Minuteman card for self-checkout.
During the pandemic, staff at the library did a fantastic job of ensuring patrons got the materials they needed, without risk to their health. However, there are some experiences that cannot be replicated in a virtual format. “We didn’t realize how important browsing is to people, but it’s part of their behavior when it comes to picking out movies and books. You can’t recreate that in the same way online. Having people be able to come in and see them and open them and go ‘this is the book for me’ - that’s really exciting,” explains Medfield Public Library Director Pam Gardner.
Patrons visiting for the first time since the pandemic will notice a few new features. A selection of the children’s section has been moved to the first floor, books propped up on tables so that kids and parents can look at their choices without touching them. The elevator that once took visitors to the children's and teen sections is now blocked off by a table of seasonal books. On Monday, there were a few dozen books about rabbits, chicks, and springtime waiting to be checked out. A large mural of a yellow submarine with a plastic-covered porthole now sits in front of the stairwell. This serves both as a decoration and a way for staff members to ask the youngest patrons if there are other books they want from the children’s section. After receiving their request, staff members will grab the materials from upstairs and place them in a book-shaped slot to drop onto a wooden bookshelf on the patron-side of the mural. The interaction adds a little fun to the normal browsing experience.
Last Monday, visitors made their way around the library, taking full advantage of their allotted thirty minutes of browsing time to explore the first floor. The number of visitors is currently limited to twelve people at a time, making it easy to social distance while looking through the shelves. Though browsing is only the first step to returning the library to normalcy, it’s clearly already making patrons' days better.
“It’s nice to see you!” said one patron to a staffer manning the front desk.
“It’s good to see you,” replied the staffer, with a smile on her face.
“Let’s just hope it stays this way,” the patron said as she checked out her selection of books.
The simple option of being able to enter the library and browse has added a bit of normalcy back into people’s lives. As the country continues to recover from COVID-19, neighbors can finally return to their library, interact with their favorite librarians, and find new books and movies to keep busy through what we hope will be the tail-end of the pandemic.