After months-long closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several local libraries around New Trier Township have their sights set on reopening next month.
The Wilmette Public Library, closed since Nov. 14, is shooting for a reopening date of Monday, Feb. 15; while the two buildings of the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District, closed since Nov. 17, are hoping to welcome back in-person visits on Feb. 8, according to statements sent to The Record.
Anthony Auston, executive director of the Wilmette Public Library, told the Record that library leadership staff and the board of trustees are “outlining the necessary steps to safely reopen the library building to the public.”
“Given the complexity of our reopening steps, current building projects, coordinating schedules, allocation of resources, planning, and communications, we’re targeting our reopening for Monday, February 15,” he said in an emailed statement.
The library is preparing for several projects that are slated to begin this year, Auston said. He described the projects as a new radio frequency identification tagging endeavor, new self-checkout and automated material handling equipment, a website redesign, and several “large-scale” capital repairs planned for the summer months.
Although the library has been closed to in-person visits, circulation statistics for November and December are up 2 percent versus the same time last year, according to Auston.
“Our community has been remarkably engaged with our digital services, online programming, and parking lot pickup services,” he said.
The most popular digital platforms — downloadable books and streaming movies — at the library have tripled in usage, Auston said.
Program attendance has “been consistently remarkable as our community has quickly adapted to and has been enjoying our array of virtual-based events and workshops – with even more exciting events in the coming weeks,” Auston added.
Auston said once the library reopens it will operate similar to how it did over the summer and fall. That includes capacity limits, mandatory masking, social distancing and the limited use of some services.
“Until at least later this summer, due to material quarantine and building projects, we anticipate there will be no on-site programming and no study rooms or meeting room spaces,” he said.
Officials from the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library District are planning to reopen both buildings on Feb. 8, said Sarah Quish, head of marketing and communications. When both libraries reopen, they will operate with a limited capacity, Quish said.
Curbside services will continue to be offered during all operating hours. According to Quish, hours at Winnetka are 1-5 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. At Northfield, hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.