The Waterford Public Library, 101 N. River Street, has been fully open since mid June with guidelines in place to foster health and safety, including recommended masks, social distancing and frequent sanitizing of high-touch areas. (file photo)

Grove, Waterford fully open since June, Burlington by appointment only

By Mike Ramczyk


While outdoor public places like bars and the Burlington Aquatic Center have been open most of the summer, local libraries have had to be careful about reopening due to potential large gatherings indoors.

With the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of letting up, local library directors must be extra careful.

The Graham Public Library and Waterford Public Library have been open for a month, while the Burlington Public Library remains open only by appointment inside, with curbside pickup the main method of book delivery.

So why has Burlington yet to open?

“People can come inside the library with an appointment. They have to wear a mask and wash or sanitize their hands when they come in,” said Burlington Public Library Director Joe Davies. “We have appointments available for using the computers and browsing the collection, including ‘on demand’ appointments for folks who arrive unplanned,” he said.

“The real goal is to keep from getting overwhelmed, especially since the main entrance and both of our service desks are in a relatively confined space, and we have a number of staff in the high-risk category for COVID. Barb Ludwig was a regular patron, and the staff took her loss hard. We don’t want to see anything like that happen again.”

Ludwig passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on April 10.

While Burlington’s library operates on a limited basis, the Waterford and Union Grove libraries have both been open since mid-June.


Masks not required

But why open up, with coronavirus running rampant?

“Everyone is invited to browse the shelves if you feel comfortable,” according to a statement from the Waterford Public Library. “Masks are encouraged but not required. Computers are available but limited to one hour per day.”

In Union Grove, Graham Public Library has been fully open since June 15.

Library Director Sara Swanson says they are offering usual services – public-use computers, printer, photocopier, and scanner; faxing; books and AV checkouts and returns; reference; and databases.

Each week, Union Grove’s public library offers story time, craft and STEAM activity on its Facebook page.

With tough times, circulation and revenue has declined, but Swanson appreciates the community support.

“Overall, we are back to as normal as possible, for which we are very grateful,” Swanson said. “Unfortunately, one of our biggest challenges is the loss of revenue while we were closed, and unforeseen repair bills. However, we know we are not alone in this concern. I’m so happy to say that we have a great community in Union Grove and we’re so appreciative of their continued support and patronage.”

Graham Library is open Mondays through Thursdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Safety measures in Waterford

In Waterford, staff is limiting use of the library to 25 percent of capacity and observing a host of other safety practices.

The following measures are in place “for the safety of the community.”

  • Patrons and staff are asked to cover any coughs and sneezes with their elbow.
  • Facemasks are recommended for all staff and patrons when not behind sneeze guards.
  • Hand sanitizer is available at all service points for patrons and staff to use frequently.
  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet of physical separation from staff and patrons will be maintained when possible.
  • High-touch areas will be sanitized frequently by staff.
  • Public access to the library will be limited to 25% of capacity.
  • Donated materials will not be accepted at this time.
  • Seating will be distributed for social distancing.
  • All toys and tables in the children’s area are in storage.
  • All returned materials will be placed in quarantine.
  • Study rooms can only be used by one to three members of the same family.
  • The Community Room, Storytelling Room, History Room, and Microfilm Room are not available to the public at this time.


Survey eyed in Burlington

Back in Burlington, the library has given “Our Library Grows Readers” signs, to the public.

Every library in Walworth and Racine counties is getting the signs.

Burlington has added Hoopla Digital (ebooks, audiobooks, graphic novels, music available on demand) and Creative Bug (crafting and creative video tutorials).

The Library Board is still discussing space options before a full reopen.

“We’re planning to do a community survey in the next month to get opinions on the final options,” Davis said.

Also, the library is close to finishing a rearranging the youth area to have more toddler play space.

Burlington has been starting to see more families in-person, according to Davies.

While curbside pickup has been the most popular option, the staff has been busier than ever despite decreased revenues because it takes longer to film and edit virtual content.

Davies says the staff misses seeing families and people in general, but it’s been nice that kids are starting to show up in person more often.

“Since we finished shifting our collection and expanded appointment slots, we’ve started to see more families come in again, and that’s been really nice,” Davies said. “The kids are always so excited to be back and pick out books for summer reading and show off their masks. The library doesn’t feel quite right without kids around, so it’s nice to see them coming back in.”