Resourceful, Resilient: Today’s Bedford Free Public Library

Processing interlibrary loans and requests for books from the local collection could well be seen as a full-time job.


Books wait in quarantine for 72 hours before being handled by staff or passed along to patrons – Click to view a larger image

“It’s labor-intensive and challenging but people love it,” said Library Director Richard Callaghan about the curbside pickup of books that started on June 23. A new software system enables Library staff to fill up to 80 “slots” per day of books and materials requested by patrons, with no limit to the number of books.  On July 13, Callaghan said 80 slots were filled, with 259 books checked out. Most popular pickup hours are 10 to 10:30 am but beginning Thursday, July 23 a later pickup hour will be offered, with the last pickup at 7:30 pm, to accommodate those who can’t retrieve their brown book sacks earlier. He expects curbside pickup to continue “for the foreseeable future.”

Setting up a bag for each ‘order.’ Once the bag is filled, it’s tagged with the reader’s name, library card number, and appointed pick-up time before being sealed for contactless delivery – Click to view a larger image

Director Callaghan told the Trustees at their July 14 meeting that the staff has been incredibly busy with contact-free curbside pickup but has still made time for online programs, answering reference questions, and offering personalized reading lists. Staffer Jess Dyment devised a resourceful way to post the current art exhibit from the Bedford Arts and Craft Society which went up the day before the Library closed. She took photos of the exhibit and made a slide show that is on the Library website.  You can see it at htps:// Summer reading programs continue online and clubs such as Genealogy are meeting via zoom, with strong attendance.

Coping with the brown paper bags used to deliver patrons’ orders – Click to view a larger image

The big question on everyone’s mind-with no clear answer in sight-is “when will the Library reopen to the public?” The Trustees pondered a number of possibilities. Some area libraries are opening in a limited way but most in the Minuteman Regional network have not yet set a date, “maybe after Labor Day” is one possibility. The Children’s Room will probably not reopen for a long time. Browsing the collection would not be available even if the Library does reopen. Trustee Mike Pulizzi wondered if there might be a way to cordon off the area where the copy/fax machine is located, to allow limited access, as these services are important to many users. Perhaps some computers could be made available on an appointment basis. Callaghan and Assistant Director Noreen O’Gara are considering all suggestions; they speak frequently with other directors in the Minuteman network to exchange “best practice” ideas in this unprecedented time.

Meantime, the Library is following strict protocols on incoming and outgoing books, which are quarantined for 72 hours. During the Covid-19 downtime, there has been an opportunity for painting the building and safety features are being added such as Plexiglas shields around staff desks.

The Library is not collecting fines until the end of August and it’s possible the “no-fines” policy may continue, although the Trustees have not yet taken a formal vote on this change.

Callaghan is working closely with other town departments to work out opening guidelines that will assure safety for both staff and patrons.  The next meeting of the Trustees is set for August 14. As with all Town boards and committees, anyone can observe via the zoom link that will be posted on the Library Trustees website.

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