HANCOCK COUNTY — As a self-professed bookworm, college student Megan Kincaid could hardly wait for the Hancock County Public Library to reopen after a 12-week closure due to COVID-19.
On Tuesday, she was happily browsing from one aisle to the next in search of books at the Greenfield branch, along with her brother Ben.
“I’ve been wanting to come here ever since I came home for Spring Break for college, but as soon as I got here they shut the library down,” she recalled.
She’s been anxiously awaiting a break in her job schedule so she could stop by and pick up some books, mostly mysteries and crime novels.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
“I love reading, so not being able to come to the library for so long has been really tough,” said Kincaid, who lives in Greenfield and attends Franklin College.
She’s not alone.
Patrons have been steadily making their way back to the county library’s two branches ever since they reopened on June 8.
Both the Greenfield and Sugar Creek branches closed in a rush on March 17, as the country started a rapid shutdown in response to COVID-19.
Patrons were told to not return materials, and that late fees accrued during the closure would be waived.
On May 18, the library started offering curbside pickup service, through which patrons could reserve books and multimedia materials online and pick them up during certain hours in front of the library. Nearly 4,500 items were picked up curbside in just two weeks.
Patrons have also been happy to get back to the Fortville-Vernon Township Public Library, which closed its doors March 16 and reopened May 18.
Both library systems beefed up their online reading resources during the closures, offering online activities and virtual story times. Both also emphasized sanitization and social distancing practices.
In a Facebook post the day before its reopening, the Hancock County Public Library assured patrons that the staff would be regularly sanitizing surfaces, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and quarantining returned materials. “While not required, we encourage you to wear a mask to increase the safety of our patrons and staff,” the post read.
Deep-cleaning and sanitizing the library branches was essential, said library director Dave Gray, especially since both branches served as election centers just prior to reopening.
“We wanted to make sure we had everything in place so we could open. We wanted to make sure we had the plastic shields, hand sanitizer and soap, all of our cleaning supplies on hand,” he said.
While in-person programming will be suspended through the summer, online story times, performers and crafts will continue to be available, along with digital services like ebooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, music and learning tools, said Gray.
Toys in the kids’ area remain in storage, but staff has converted the playhouses there into a large game of I-Spy.
While the number of visitors is lower than what it was prior to the closure, Gray was happy to see patrons gradually coming back to the library this week.
Robert Gordon stopped by the Greenfield branch on Tuesday to check out a couple books on Hancock County history. He wanted to give his granddaughter, Brianna Gordon, a lesson on her ancestors.
“I wanted to show her how her roots started right here in Greenfield,” said Gordon, who was accompanied by his daughter and granddaughter. All were wearing masks.
Gordon has missed coming to the library in the weeks since it’s been closed, but was in no hurry to leave the safe confines of his home during the pandemic. On Tuesday, he felt comfortable enough to make his first trip to the library since the closure.
“I tell people this is the nicest library I’ve ever been to,” he said, after checking out his books and heading back to his truck.
Donna Dweiwert has also missed the chance to stop by the library, a trip she used to make once or twice a week.
On Tuesday, she was checking out a DVD of a TV series she’d never watched, and also used the library’s printer to print out an email.
She hasn’t had access to a printer, books or DVDs since the library closed. Not having access to library services “just creates a change in your day-to-day life,” she said. “I really missed the library when it was closed, so I’m thrilled it’s open again.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Fortville-Vernon Township Public Library
625 E. Broadway St.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays
12-8 p.m. Thursdays
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays
Hancock County Public Library
Main Branch – Greenfield
900 W. McKenzie Road
Sugar Creek Branch – New Palestine
5731 W. US Highway 52
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
For information on the library’s coronavirus safety measures, visit hcplibrary.org/coronavirus.htm