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Grand Island Memorial Library survives lockdown

Mon, Aug 16th 2021 10:35 am

Four employees, curbside pick-up saved the day

So you like to read, right? How would you like to be cooped up in a library for four months with little or no contact with the outside world?

Well, that’s not exactly what happened to Bridgette Heintz, but it’s close. Heintz is the director of the Grand Island Memorial Library at 1715 Bedell Road. When the first “lockdown” hit on March 17, 2020, she had 17 employees. Fourteen were furloughed. It lasted until May 23, 2020 – 71 days. There was a second lockdown, from Nov. 20, 2020, until Jan. 25, 2021 – 66 days.

During those two periods—a total of 137 days – Heintz and the three other employees, one full-time and two part-time, tried to keep as many library services as possible going without physical contact with the public. They offered curbside service; people could order the books they wanted and pick them up at curbside. Video DVDs and audio CDs could also be ordered and picked up in the same manner.

Materials could be ordered either on the internet or by telephone, but at one time the library internet system was down for about a week, and telephone was the only means available.

“Our phone was ringing off the hook during that period,” Heintz said.

Materials could be returned by putting them in the slot at the side of the building. The returned materials were sanitized and quarantined for three days before being returned to the shelves or lent to other borrowers.

“We were filling 30 to 50 orders a day,” Heintz said. “We were running around like crazy, but we were happy to have something to do.”

When the library was finally allowed to reopen to full service, many of the furloughed employees had found other jobs or did not want to come back to work for various reasons. Heintz is still trying to recruit enough employees to get up to full-strength, but she is still only up to 15.

During the summer, the library ran a full range of services including children’s programs, all-age story time, and a “Battle of the Books” competition. This is a national competition, but Grand Island had 13 teams with eight teenagers on each team. The teens had to read one book a week and answer questions about it. Grand Island placed fourth in the competition in a tiebreaker.

There were also crafts run by Orange Poppy Studio, and a presentation by the SPCA on service dogs.

The library also has an adult book discussion group that meets virtually on the third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. There are about 40 members in the group, and between 11 and 20 usually show up.

Heintz is hoping there will not be another lockdown, but is conferencing with her colleagues and making contingency plans for any scenario.

More information can be obtained by calling the library at 716-773-7124.

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