SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – On Friday, June 12, Governor Phil Murphy announced he would be signing Administrative Order 2020-15, which would allow libraries within the State of New Jersey to reopen for curbside pickup only, effective that coming Monday. 

While reopening, even in a minimum capacity, comes as good news, South Plainfield library Director Linda Hansen said enacting the mandated procedures and protocols while also working to dig out from hundreds of returns and other administrative issues in just under 60 hours is not realistic.

“We closed on March 13 and, over the course of the past three months, hundreds of materials have been returned. Additionally, under Executive Order 107, library employees were forbidden from entering the building for anything other than administrative or maintenance work so we have quite a bit of work to catch up on before we will be ready to begin curbside services,” said Hansen. 

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As a result, Hansen anticipates that the South Plainfield Public Library will be ready to officially begin providing curbside service on July 1. 

As of press time, limited staff have been allowed to return to the building and are working to discharge and reshelve all returned materials, coordinate with other libraries in the consortia to exchange materials (since the statewide delivery service is still suspended), develop procedures for a new workflow, and restart collection development (including expanding its eBook/eAudio collections) as well as put the finishing touches on a new, online 2020 summer reading program and develop clear instructions on how patrons may place and pick up orders.

Information on how patrons can request and pick up library materials, said Hansen, will be forthcoming; patrons will not be allowed to enter the building and all programming will continue to run virtually until further notice. Additionally, the library plans to continue waiving late fees on checked out items and patrons who wish to hold on to materials may continue to do so at this time. Those who wish to return items must use the drop box bins; library personnel cannot accept handed off items. 

Currently, said Hansen, the Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium (LMxAC) - the automation consortia that manages the library's inter-loan service (ILS) – is working with each member library to have the ability to place holds turned back on. “In the beginning, we will not be able to request or receive materials from other libraries in the consortia so lending of items will be limited to what we have in house,” she said. 

“We anticipate delivery service to resume in the coming months, and will update our patrons once we are to begin fulfilling those requests,” Hansen said, noting that libraries through the state are ‘taking things slowly and being very precautious with materials since there is still concern about the potential for spread.’ 

“Each library may have different policies in place for curbside pickup and things seem to be ever-changing at this time. South Plainfield patrons interested in checking out an item from another library should check with the respective branch to see what their policies are," she said. 

Under Administrative Order 2020-15, libraries are permitted to reopen their outdoor spaces to the public pursuant to the provisions of Executive Order No. 153 (2020). In addition, all municipal, county, and state public libraries, and all libraries at public and private colleges and universities, are permitted to reopen to the public, but only where they adopt policies that include, at minimum, the following requirements: 

Patrons shall not be permitted to enter the brick-and-mortar premises, but instead shall be permitted to pick up ordered materials from outside of the facility; transactions shall be handled in advance by phone, email, facsimile, or other means that avoid person-to-person contact, wherever feasible; and patrons shall notify the facility by text message, email, or phone once they arrive, whenever feasible, or make the best efforts to schedule their arrival time in advance. When picking up items, patrons should remain in their vehicle, if applicable, and wait for a designated staff member to bring materials out and place them directly inside when feasible. Additionally, in-premises operations shall be limited to those employees who are responsible for the operations required for curbside pickup/drop-off. 

“We understand that everyone is anxious to return to normalcy, but we have an obligation to make sure we are opening back up in a way that will allow us to keep both our patrons and staff safe,” said Hansen. 

“As we enter each phase of our return to service, we will be sure to keep everyone informed and aware! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. We are looking forward to seeing our patrons again – even if it’s at a distance at this time.”

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