SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Normally, the Spotswood Public Library is bustling in the summer with its reading programs for kids, craft nights, movies and more. However, since the coronavirus pandemic hit the Garden State, its doors have been closed to the public. The staff was working remotely during the shutdown, offering residents online options. They have been back in the building since the end of June with two groups of employees rotating shifts. The library began providing patrons takeout service for Spotswood Public Library materials only on July 1. Many residents have taken advantage of the contact less pickup service for library materials while other residents are still not aware the library is open and providing residents with options both online and off.

"It's hard to reach out to people who don't have internet or who maybe are not on our Facebook page or checking our website," explained Spotswood Public Library Director. C.L. Quillen.

Some larger Middlesex County libraries with the space to social distance like Sayreville, Monroe and Piscataway have reopened to the public. However, many like Spotswood are staff-only and are providing takeout and virtual services for their library patrons.

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"We have a full summer program," Quillen said. "We are trying to do what ever we can."

Quillen reached out to Page Turner Adventurers who are providing kids with five days a week of programming that varies from a bit of magic to virtual field trips. Miss Erin does video story time segments and the library is offering virtual STEAM programs, continuing many of their in-person activities online through the library's Facebook page. Even the library's popular craft programs are going on this summer. Make-and-take craft kits are offered weekly and are available for younger kids, tweens and adults. To participate in any event, patrons simply need to register on the Spotswood Public Library's website by clicking on the events/calendar icon.

Binge boxes are now available for pickup as well, complete with some popcorn to enjoy while watching a series of themed movies.

"We have about 20 different themes," Quillen said. "A couple for children and a variety for adults."

Some Binge Box themes revolve around a particular actor like Tom Hanks while others play into the holiday feel of a Christmas in July.

"We have had a lot of people say they really miss browsing," Quillen said. "So we pulled some of your newer books that were here on the shelves and put them on a cart in the front window."

If people see something they like in the window, they can knock and a staff member will check out the book on the spot.

"We know it is not quite the same, but we are trying to do what we can," Quillen said. "We are open to ideas."

All borrowed books, DVDs and library materials are quarantined for five to seven days upon return before being made available for takeout again. While the risk of contracting the coronavirus from library books and materials is low, the OCLC, a global library cooperative, recommends that returned library materials sit for at least four days to err on the side of caution.

Upcoming virtual events include Monday's Zoom program with Iditarod dog musher Karen Land and two of her sled dogs as well as an interactive August 26 program for parents on helping students with the transition back to school in September. The LMxAC's Author's at Home series continues on Wednesday, August 5 with Miriam Parker. Other ideas in the work include virtual book groups, a meditations program and a presentation from Spotswood ShopRite Dietician Maryrose Agel.

Don't have a Spotswood Public Library card? Not a problem. Quillen said the library is continuing to issue residents new cards if they need them and has been throughout the pandemic.

Of course, even with all the options the Main Street library is delivering to its patrons, Quillen knows one this is still absent; the social connection.

"We are missing everybody," Quillen said. "We have a lot of people who used to come in once or twice a week really more for the social and there's no way to provide that. We realize it is not the same experience even with the programming and other stuff."

If and when the library is able to welcome back patrons inside, Quillen feels they will still continue to offer patrons some virtual options. She and the staff have found that many patrons have taken advantage of viewing the taped programming at a time that fits into their schedules.

The Authors at Home series is being offered for free by the LMxAC. Patrons can register online for an evening presentation and exchange with popular writers. Quillen said the first one with Jeff Cohen had about 25 people on the Zoom presentation. She is excited about the August 20 Authors at Home visit with NY Times best-selling author Mary Kate Andrews.

Residents can find out about all the library's virtual programs, takeout service, events, its catalog of eBooks and more on the Spotswood Public Library's website and Facebook page. Service updates will also be provided on the library's website and Facebook page.

Still have library books out since before the mid-March shutdown? That's okay. Quillen said all library fines are currently being waived. All materials including DVDs can now be returned to the outdoor book drop. Patrons with ideas or suggestions about programming or services they'd like to see can email Quillen at clquillen@spotslibrary.org or reach out by messaging the Spotswood Public Library's Facebook page.