The Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, or BPL reopened to patrons Tuesday, making it the fourth branch to resume indoor library services since closing in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Claremont, the remaining branch, will reopen June 28, while the North, West and Central branches have been open for weeks, according to BPL’s website. BPL spokesperson Aimee Reeder noted that throughout the pandemic, all of the branches have offered outdoor pickups to lend books and library materials to patrons.
Locations that are open offer other services, such as indoor browsing, computer use and self-check-out, the website adds. Masks are required, even for those who are vaccinated, and patrons must continue to socially distance themselves.
The reopening of the library branches has been staggered to allow each branch to adequately prepare for indoor services, beginning with the North Branch on May 28 and ending with the Claremont Branch. According to Heather Cummins, the supervising librarian who co-leads the reopening team at the Central Branch, the process required a strong group effort.
“The Relaunch Task Team that formed to get the doors open was a real spectrum of staff from all different teams at the Central library and represented many different classifications,” Cummins said in an email.
The reopening process includes everything from preparing physical spaces and checkout stations to creating promotional material and arranging library materials for in-person browsing, according to Reeder.
So far, the branches that have reopened have seen library traffic resume at or close to levels before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with the first branch to reopen reporting higher volumes than others, according to Cummins. According to Amanda Myers, acting library services manager for BPL, patrons are making use of all the newly available services, supplemented by outdoor pickups.
At the North and West branches, however, part of the reopening process involves pausing outdoor pickups temporarily, Reeder said.
Because the reopening has been staggered, Shani Leonards, supervising librarian at Claremont Branch, the branches that were later to reopen have fine-tuned the process.
“We’ve learned a lot from our colleagues. Our building is the smallest of the branches so we’ve done a lot of planning on how to make space very patron-friendly,” Leonards said in an email.
Staff and patrons alike are excited to resume indoor services at the libraries after more than a year of closure, including activities such as summer reading and children’s storytimes, Myers added.
While this is only the first phase of reopening at BPL, staff are diligently working with union leadership and management to plan the next phases, according to Reeder.
“Although we’ve loved seeing patrons at Outdoor Pickup this year, there is NOTHING like having our patrons back inside our Libraries,” Reeder said in an email.