The Jackson County Public Libraries are now open for business as of Monday, June 15. But business will be conducted in a much different way for a while.

According to library director, John Faria, several changes have had to be made due to the guidelines and impact of COVID-19.

“The library will have a different look,” he said. “Many things have had to be adjusted, moved, or added to provide safety for both staff and patrons.”

The maximum number of patrons allowed into the library at one time is 10 for Ripley and six for Ravenswood. This includes those on the computers and those who come to read the newspapers or magazines. A staff person will be monitoring this at the front door of each facility. Masks are encouraged but not required.

Reading newspapers will be limited to 30 minutes and computer usage will be by appointment only.

“Anyone who wants to schedule a time must call the library,” Faria said. “Sessions will start at the top of the hour and will last 55 minutes to give an opportunity to clean between usage. If the patron is late, the remainder of the appointment will be available, but time will not be extended. We will be strict with the computer policy.”

For most library patrons, browsing the shelves is part of the experience. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, that option will not available for a while.

Faria said that a computer will be available for patrons to look up materials. Staff will be ready to help with this process. Once the patron decides which book, a staff person will go the shelf and retrieve it. The patron can then check out the item on a quick scanner located at the circulation desk.

“We know this isn’t ideal, but to protect both the patron and staff, this is the way it has to be for now,” Faria said. “But we’ll do everything we can to make it as easy as possible. We also encourage looking up materials on our website and be ready with the request.”

Returning materials will be easy according to Faria.

“Simply put all returns in our normal outside book drop or bring inside to a designated area,” he said. “We’ll then quarantine those materials for several days before they‘re cleaned and returned to the shelf.”

Even with all the precautions, including plexiglass at the circulation desk, and staff being masked, Faria realizes that some people may still be hesitant to come into the library.

"We will offer curbside service too," he said. "There will be designated parking out front. Just call in and let us know when you arrive and we'll bring the materials to you."

Faria and his staff know that these changes may be a hard adjustment for patrons, especially for those who have long used the library.

"The big watchwords will be patience and cooperation," he said. "This is an unprecedented crisis that we're all trying to deal with. But bottom line, the library is back. We may not be full service yet, but we will get there."

At this time, no donations will be accepted. The week of June 15 will be a fine free week for any materials returned.

One service that will continue is the summer reading program. Again, it will be in a different format, but all ages can participate.

Carla Long, circulation supervisor, said planning has been challenging.

"It has forced us to think even more creatively than ever," she said. "We're excited that we can make it work." (See info box for details)

Support for the public library is strong in Jackson County. In the June 9 primary election, the excess levy passed with over 70 percent approval. The levy, which has been in place since 2004, provides operating funds for both the Ripley and Ravenswood locations.

"It was very gratifying to see the widespread support and love for the library," Faria said. "It's a reflection on the hard work of the staff. We will be moving in a positive direction to make the library an even more welcoming place for all people."

For information or questions concerning other services offered at the library, such as copying, faxing, or notary services, call the Ripley Library at 304-372-5343, Ravenswood Library at 304-273-5343, or visit the website at jackson.park.lib.wv.us

Important Information to Note

Temporary Operating Hours:

• Ripley – 9-5 (M-Th), 11-5 (F), 12-3 (S), Closed Sunday

• Ravenswood – 9-5 (M, T, Th), 11-5 (F), 12-3 (S), Closed Sunday

Summer Reading – July 6-Aug. 15

Theme: “Imagine Your Story”

Registration: June 22-July 23 online using Read Squared at jackson.park.lib.wv.us

• Toddlers – Virtual storytime/craft packets

• Ages 4-12 – Weekly packets with craft supplies

• Teens – Packets/Scavenger Hunt/Other activities

• Adults – Grimm’s Fairy Tales with crafts