Library Open

Loutit District Library staff member Kate Tobin, left, speaks with patron Anna Cox.

The misconception is that local public libraries were closed the past several months due to the pandemic. That’s not the case.

True, the doors on the buildings at Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries may have been locked, but the libraries continued to offer vital services to the Tri-Cities community.

For example, Loutit staff members made phone calls to hundreds of senior citizens throughout the community.

“That’s a real common misconception is that the library was closed from March until July, but library service did not stop,” said John Martin, director of Loutit District Library in Grand Haven. “We had staff making phone calls to more than 1,400 seniors above the age of 70 that live in our area, to see how they were doing, and asking if we can help them to get online” to utilize digital library services.

That effort didn’t go unnoticed. Martin and his staff received a letter from a library patron last week, who said: “I sometimes think we’d have been devastated and lost without those books.”

The good news for book lovers across the area is that local libraries are again open to the public, albeit with abbreviated hours and several safety precautions in place.

Loutit is now open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spring Lake District Library is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re getting great feedback – the community is really happy to come in and look around,” said Maggie McKeithan, director at Spring Lake District Library. “When they discover we’re open, they’re thrilled. We’re also just trying to be as cautious as possible, cleaning regularly and sanitizing computers after every use.”

McKeithan said SLDL saw a spike in digital use when the library’s doors were closed due to the pandemic.

“We checked out around 16,000 digital materials between March and May,” she said. “We did shift some more money toward digital resources so we could help people when we were closed, and add more titles to choose from on our digital platforms.”

Libraries are traditionally a place to peruse at a leisurely pace. Thanks to COVID-19, that has changed.

“We’re encouraging people to visit with a purpose – come get what you need and move along,” McKeithan said. “We don’t have any chairs to sit in, and we’re encouraging to people to get what they need and then check out at the self-check stations so we don’t need to make any contact.”

Classrooms and meeting spaces are closed – in part to make room for all the materials that are being returned to the library. Martin said Loutit patrons had 14,000 items checked out when the doors closed March 13. Book drop-offs were shut down until early June. Since that time, every item that is returned goes into quarantine for 96 hours.

“All incoming items are quarantined for four days, so that takes up a lot of room,” McKeithan said.

In addition to offering books and other materials to check out, libraries also offer instructional and informational classes and seminars, as well as concerts. Many of those have been canceled, and the few that are still taking place have gone virtual.

“We’re still doing some evening adult programming and our Friday morning story time, but you have to sit in front of a computer,” Martin said. He added that programs can be found on the library’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Fruitport District Library is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The library is closed Sundays.

The Fruitport library is parenting with Mask Up Muskegon to provide free reusable masks to patrons. The library is also offering a virtual story time, posted at 11 a.m. Tuesdays on the library’s Facebook page.

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