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Northeast Ohio libraries remain open amid COVID case surge


Libraries across Northeast Ohio had to dramatically scale back in-person operations at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that really hasn’t been the case during the most recent surge in cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus.

Michelle Francis is the Executive Director of the Ohio Library Council. She says for the most part, libraries are keeping their doors open to in-person access.

“We have had a few situations in North or Northeast Ohio, where a couple libraries have temporarily gone to curbside service just because of the increase in case numbers. But libraries are open, and services are continuing, and obviously there’s still lots of digital resources that are available.”

Francis says some libraries may close early due to staffing issues but all of them are continuing to provide digital and telephone resources and internet access even if the building itself is closed.

Francis says only a few libraries have temporarily switched to only curbside pick-up. This is due to rising case numbers but that has not meant a decrease in access to resources.

“But even for those libraries that have gone to curbside they’re still doing things like lending and supporting zoom rooms so that people can borrow and utilize zoom services for themselves. Many are still providing virtual support for technology through telephone service.”

She says even if libraries close their buildings, their Wi-Fi connection will stay active. Some libraries like Stow-Munroe Falls are also investing in improving their hotspot service. Marketing and Public Relations Manager Ann Malthaner said they wanted a more reliable service so people could better access the internet even at home.

Many have also partnered with organizations like PC's for People and provide electronic tablets to those in need.

Francis says people can still access the library catalog online to download e-books and audio books, watch author visits and participate in virtual story-time for children.

Francis expects all libraries to follow guidance provided by their local health department, the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Jay Shah