Library to reopen starting today

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GLOVERSVILLE — For so many people the public library is more than a place to go and pick up a book to read. It is a pillar of the community that opens its doors to everyone, offering everything from storytime to computer services, to a place where you can go and feel connected to your neighbors. The Gloversville Public Library is will once again open its doors to the public later this week.

Starting Thursday, the library will be open for unlimited browsing, new collections, tax services, vaccine appointment assistance, meeting room reservations and walk-in computer availability. Library Director Valerie Acklin said they have been both patient and anxious about opening back up, and they are ready.

“We are all excited about the reopening of the physical building, it has been quite a journey to get to this place,” said Acklin.

Acklin said the past year, as with everything, has been challenging. She describes keeping the library going as a process of almost re-inventing themselves.

“To say the library’s evolution over the past 18 months has been a true metamorphosis is not hyperbole. The NYS PAUSE and subsequent safety mandates changed everything for us overnight, and we went from being a very busy and visible “caterpillar,” with lots of legs busy covering ground in the community, to being almost completely cocoon-ed. But like a caterpillar, while we were out of sight much of the time, we were actually hard at work on the inside, re-envisioning what the library could and should be moving forward, all while that ground we thought we knew so well was shifting beneath us. Now, quite literally, we’re ready to emerge, spread our butterfly wings, and share how we’ve grown with Gloversville,” said Acklin.

For Acklin specifically, coming on board with the library in the summer of 2020 brought its own challenges. She began her role as director in July, the midst of the pandemic, adding that it allowed her to see just how vital the library really is to the community.

“Many typical library experiences that were taken for granted, browsing the shelves, attending in-person story times and book clubs, and simply enjoying the beautifully renovated space, were no longer viable. But the staff shifted gears immediately and, in conjunction with the Mohawk Valley Library System, we were able to not simply change with the world around us, but totally transform what we do and how we do it,” said Acklin.

Those changes included curbside service, expansion of the ebook collection, the implementation of asking reference questions by phone, email, post, and tweet; programs reconfigured to allow for interactivity on Zoom or live-streaming on social media; and summer story time as a downtown stroll in partnership with local businesses.

“We truly aimed to be as responsive to community needs as possible, under the circumstances. In the process, we discovered that we could reach more people, in more ways, than we ever dreamed possible. Now we’re taking what we learned and using it to reimagine the library for the future,” said Acklin.

Now, Acklin and her staff are ready to take what they have learned and move forward. She said they are aware that not having the library open was especially difficult to those who depend on the resources they provide.

“The future starts on April 1, when we reopen the building to the public. We know how much people have missed being able to access the Internet on our computers, use our meeting rooms as workspaces, and sit down to read the daily paper, so we are delighted to offer those services again,” said Acklin.

Safety will be a top priority for the staff and Acklin explains that part of that safety will have things looking a little different. She said services like computer use will be capped at an hour, meeting rooms will need to be reserved to avoid overcrowding, seating will be limited, masks must be worn correctly at all times and social distancing from those who are not family members will be required.

Patrons will notice some new additions, including new materials and services. They are also a “Library of Things,” a collection of everyday household items and tools that can be checked out for use. This spring, cardholders will be able to borrow a Chromebook laptop, a mobile WiFi hotspot, a Roku streaming stick, an NYS Empire Pass (which allows free admission to state parks), a 6-foot folding table, a pop-up outdoor canopy, and a collection of family-friendly travel games. They will also unveil a Lucky Day collection: non-reservable copies of their most current and popular titles. Outgoing fax and copier services will also be available. The library also will play an important role in helping the community schedule COVID-19 vaccine or testing appointments, with a computer dedicated for that purpose.

“We are eager to have folks back in to see and experience all these additions. The library has always been about more than what’s housed within our walls, and that is the case now more than ever,” said Acklin.

Many patrons have come to enjoy the curbside service and online offerings, and that is something they will continue to do, said Acklin. As the weather gets warmer, Acklin said they will be hosting outdoor interactive programming, designed to bring groups in a safe way. They will also be offering exercise and meditation classes for adults and teens, family story and craft times at local parks, a community garden on the library grounds, and an enhanced StoryWalk through downtown.

“Needless to say, we can’t wait to get out and about in Gloversville. We hope that the library will have something for everyone, whether you are in the building, at home, or on the move,” said Acklin.

When reflecting on the past year, Acklin said their ability to keep growing was owed in part to the support of their neighbors.

“When the pandemic hit, it became all too clear that the economic impact in the region would be both broad and deep. With that in mind, the Board of Trustees took the bold step of freezing the library budget, so that the community would not be burdened with increases during such difficult times,” said Acklin.

The library eliminated overdue fines while closed, and Acklin said they will continue to do so for the vast majority of items, at least for the foreseeable future. She is sensitive to the fact that tough times are not completely out of the picture yet.

“So, as we move forward, the library remains committed to bringing value to area residents while keeping a close eye on the bottom line. I simply couldn’t be more honored to be part of an organization that has come together to offer so much, to so many, with no monetary increase.

As you can see, there is much to look forward to, as we open back up. But if I have to pick the one thing that I’m most eager for, it’s finally getting to meet everyone in Gloversville. I hope to be out in force, along with our entire team, to help build connections, gather feedback, and work with groups and individuals to ensure that the library responds to the needs of Gloversville and continues to be the heart of the community,” said Acklin.

To learn more, including information on hours, programs, and protocols, visit them online at www.gloversvillelibrary.org.

By Patricia Older