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New London and Norwich public libraries to reopen Monday

After a nearly four-month hiatus amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19, The Public Library of New London and Otis Library in Norwich are slated to reopen on Monday.

Otis will be open to browsing by appointment only for the time being, while the Public Library of New London will be open to the public with restrictions on the number of people coming in. Both have a host of safety precautions in place to protect visitors and staff.

“Everything will look different. We want to open slowly and responsibly and to see what the numbers look like going forward,” said Madhu Gupta, executive director of the Public Library of New London.

There will be a plastic shield at the checkout desk, traffic flow restrictions and a limited number of people in a given aisle at a time. Books cannot be returned in the building but book drops are available outside. Sitting and reading is not yet being allowed.

All programs will remain virtual for the time being and just two computers will be in use at any given time — one for 30-minute browsing and another reserved for things like completing or sending job applications. Masks must be worn while in the building and Gupta said cleaning has become a top priority.

Otis Executive Director Robert D. Farwell said browsing at his library will be limited to a half-hour, and four computers will be available for two-hour appointments. The study rooms, meeting rooms and restrooms will not be available for use.

As for the books, they are facing quarantine at both libraries based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have shown the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can remain on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days and on cardboard for 24 hours. Any book returned to either library will be placed in quarantine for at least 72 hours. Anyone who pulls a book from the shelves will be asked to place the book into a receptacle to be carted off for quarantine.

“Our job is to make sure everyone feels safe. I think we’ve done everything we can do,” Gupta said.

Farwell said, “we prepared assiduously for this next phase.”

“I think we’ve certainly done our due diligence. Being able to serve the public on site is a big part of what we do. Everybody misses that,” he said.

Otis and the Public Library of New London join others, such as East Lyme and Groton public libraries, that already have reopened. Many others remain closed but are offering book drops and curbside pickups, along with programming and services such as printing and photocopying.

Check your local library for a full list of virtual events and classes and for library hours.

g.smith@theday.com

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