OLEAN — When the Olean Public Library opened its doors to the public Monday, it was the first time patrons were permitted to walk into the North Second Street facility in over three months.

And while the visitors “didn’t storm the door down,” there were enough on-hand to let staff know they were back in business.

The opening is part of the library’s phased reopening under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Forward program.

Library assistant Stefanie Beneng said the facility, which is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, asks patrons to wear masks and observe social distancing protocols. Patrons with symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, chills, shortness of breath, or coughing, are requested to stay home and not place library staff and visitors at risk.

She noted the library is closed Saturdays and Sundays during July and August.

Hours and services are limited to abide by staff reduction and social distancing regulations.

A service that is available to those who are uncomfortable with inside visits at the library is curbside delivery. The service is available by appointment only and takes place early in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and again during early evening hours Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Beneng said use of public computers also requires an appointment by calling in advance, by emailing reference@oleanlibrary.org or messaging the library’s Facebook page. Drop-in computer sessions are available only if the computers have not been previously booked.

Sessions are limited to one hour in order to serve as many patrons as possible. Only a limited number of computers are available while social distancing requirements remain in place. Staff are unable, however, to provide one-on-one computer assistance at present.

In addition, patrons are permitted to browse the collections and utilize the information desk for assistance in locating materials or sending faxes. Copiers, printers and the scanner are also available for use.

Areas that remain closed in the library due to the New York Forward regulations are the meeting rooms, children’s story-time room and play area, as well as the teen room.

Michelle LaVoie, library director, said it was nice to see patrons return to the facility this week, even if it was in lower numbers.

“I think some of the staff were nervous, but they’re pretty comfortable now and we haven’t had any issues with anyone” as all have worn masks, LaVoie shared.

She said staff have heard from patrons who “are really excited” about the reopening.

“It’s great to know that people are so happy,” she added.

On a related note, LaVoie said the library’s program to collect positive messages from the area residents in the form of art, photos, prose and poetry to uplift the community, has been well received.

The submissions are being collected throughout the summer in a small outside “mailbox” at the facility and are expected to be displayed as an exhibit in the library’s art gallery for the community to see.

“Somebody dropped off a couple of paintings and they’re really beautiful,” LaVoie commented.

On a final note, library staff will notify the public when the facility is permitted to expand its hours, services and building use.

For more information or to make a curbside or computer appointment, call the library at 372-0200.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

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