A message from the Athens Regional Library System Director, Valerie Bell
Updated March 20, 2021
Dear Library User,
It is hard to believe that one year ago, we were forced to close our buildings due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We can never express our sincere thanks to our patrons for their understanding and support as we made every attempt to keep our staff, patrons, and community safe from the spread of this deadly virus.
We are so pleased to see the light and the end of the tunnel! While the Vision of the library, “Engaging Communities, Exceeding Expectations” was our North Star for service throughout this year, we will be glad to have our doors open and our hours restored once again.
We remain in phase 5 of our reentry plans. However, we plan to open more hours for our patrons starting April 5th, (the increase in hours will be between 80 and 90% of normal operations). We remind our library visitors that unvented face masks are required in our buildings. The use of socially distanced meeting room use may begin as early as May.
Our staff have just recently been approved to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It is our hope that most staff will be fully vaccinated and if all goes well in the next few weeks, our doors will open once more for full-service hours by the middle of May.
Again, without the support and confidence of our communities, this ordeal could have been much worse. We have missed you and we look forward to fully serving you once again.
February 1, 2021
Our libraries remain in phase 5 of our re-entry process. This is the last phase before we open the libraries our normal hours. While we believe we will remain in this phase through the summer of 2021, the library and our Boards of Trustees continue to seek opportunities to help our residents through this difficult time in all our lives.
I am pleased to share with you four projects the library will be rolling out over the next few months.
First, we recognize the difficulties that parents and caregivers are experiencing while schools have been closed and/or on some type of hybrid learning. We are pleased to inform you that for the 2021 school year, the Athens Regional Library System will offer Tutor.com beginning in early February. This 40 second video will introduce you to Tutor.com and its value to residents of all ages. A four-minute video about Tutor.com and its capabilities is also available on our webpage.
Tutor.com will be available 7 days a week from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm from home for individuals with a valid library card. It will also be available to anyone visiting our library, library parking lots or hotspots. This service is available to all residents in all the counties within the Athens Regional Library System.
Second, through the Georgia Public Library PINES division, we are offering every County, through their Superintendent, library cards specifically designed for student use. Working through each County public school district, the “Public Library Access for Youth” PLAY card can be made available to all students within the ARLS Region. It will allow them the ability to check out up to 5 books at a time. This student card does not accrue fines, and students can check materials out of the library as well as e-books, e-magazines and have full access to our online resources.
Third, we are preparing our mobile hotspot van which has broadband internet access available to broadcast in a wide area. We are hoping that by mid-March, we will have this van traveling the Region and making regular stops at areas which do not have access or have poor access to broadband internet.
Finally, by April, maybe before, we will be offering mobile printing to residents. That’s right! Patrons will be able to send print jobs to the library (Athens-Clarke, Danielsville, Royston, Bogart and Watkinsville) from their cell phone, tablet, laptop, or home PC. After the print job has been sent, residents will be able to come to the library and pick up their documents at the location of their choice and at their convenience.
We recognize that 2020 has been a difficult year. However, the Boards of Trustees and your Library staff, also believe that we are in this together. We will continue to find new and innovative ways to serve our communities and perhaps help, through these difficult times, in making life just a little easier for our residents to bear.
All our best wishes to each of you, and if we can answer any questions regarding the new programs listed above, please do not hesitate to contact us.
September 20, 2020
Dear Library User,
I am very pleased to announce that in addition to our current services, most county libraries will be moving to the next phase of the libraries re-opening plan. Those libraries will be welcoming patrons back into our facilities for “Grab and Go” service beginning September 28, 2020.
Due to the recent spike in Coronavirus cases, the Athens-Clarke County libraries will not be participating in Grab and Go service at this time. We will, however, continue the services that are currently being offered: Extended curbside hours, computers by appointment, document delivery, reference chat, and passport services. The active cases and infection rates in Athens-Clarke County will be reviewed weekly with the hope of opening for Grab and Go service in early October.
As with every phase, we are moving forward with the health and safety of our patrons and staff at the forefront of our processes and procedures. We recognize that some patrons will still be more comfortable with curbside service, so that will continue during select days and times.
Grab and Go is an opportunity for patrons to enter the library, during specific times of the day to pick up holds, place holds, browse parts of the collection, check-out items, make copies, send fax and participate in other library services. Patrons are asked to only remain in the library for short periods of time to give other patrons the opportunity to visit our facilities. We will routinely assess progress with an eye toward increasing the Grab and Go hours throughout the year. Our assessment will be based on the review of best practices, with the purpose of continuous improvements, and greater access to the collections.
Each county has targeted their services to meet the specific needs of their community. Please find a listing of your county’s library hours and services here.
Our libraries will look and feel slightly different as we enter this next phase of re-opening:
- Patrons will be asked to limit their library visits to between 30 to 60-minute periods.
- Plexi shields have been placed at all public service desks.
- We have moved and/or removed some of computers, tables, seating, and other furniture to allow for appropriate social distancing and cleaning procedures.
- Markers indicating social distancing have been placed on the floors.
- We have hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the library.
- Special bins have been installed throughout the library. Patrons are requested to place materials they have handled, but decided not to check out into these bins, so that those items can be quarantined before they can safely be re-shelved.
- Study rooms and meeting rooms will remain closed during this phase.
How we will be protecting patrons, and staff:
- A limited number of patrons will be allowed in the building at any one time.
- The wearing of unvented face coverings over the nose and mouth is still a requirement to enter the buildings.
- Staff will continue to be masked and gloved when working with library materials and helping patrons.
- As often as possible, we are requesting patrons use our self-service check-out computers.
- There will be greater signage regarding health and hygiene placed throughout the libraries.
- We are requesting that upon their return, all checked-out materials be placed in our outdoor bookdrops and not brought into the buildings for check-in. This is to provide the safe quarantine of materials returned to the library.
- There will be increased cleaning of high-touch areas.
As always, the Library Boards of Trustees and our staff want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we have moved through these 5 phases over the past 6 months. We are all looking forward to seeing you all again!
Posted July 31, 2020
Dear Library User,
Many thanks to our patrons for all the kind words that we have received as we make every effort to provide library services that are safe for you and our staff.
Unfortunately, due to the spike in coronavirus cases throughout our region, we had to make the difficult decision to postpone our in-house internet services. We are determined to open this service just as soon as these case numbers begin to flatten.
While we cautiously wait for the coronavirus to level in our counties, we are expanding library services.
Did you know:
- That we offer concierge reader services? Yes, if you are looking for your next read, or video or audiobook and you are not sure what to choose, give us a call and we will be happy to help you place a hold on a title of the subject interest of your choice. Looking for books on dinosaurs, or magic, or some other title that your child is interested in? Let us know, we will put together a selection of books for you to pick up during curbside hours.
- Speaking of curbside, we are happy to announce that we are expanding our curbside hours beginning August 5th. Please check your local branch’s web page or Facebook page for the exact hours of curbside service at your community library.
- Our passport service will return the week of August 10. This service is by appointment, so please call the library if you need a passport.
- Starting in September, we will begin offering bi-weekly children's Crafts-to-Go available through curbside pick-up at all of our locations. These simple and fun early childhood crafts will come in a bag with directions and all the pieces necessary for a fun activity. Each bag will also include a calendar of upcoming virtual children's programs across the region. Parents will need to provide their own glue, scissors, crayons, and markers, but everything else is included. Short tutorials for each craft will be available on our various Facebook pages for each branch. A new craft will be available every two weeks, while supplies last.
- If you are looking for something to binge watch, or something to listen to while cutting the grass, gardening, doing housework or traveling, don’t forget we have a wide selection of DVD’s (movies and television shows) and wonderful audiobooks available for you to check-out.
Thank you for your patronage. We look forward to serving you during these challenging times.
Posted June 18, 2020
Dear Library User,
As always, I start this message with sincere thanks to our library patrons for your understanding and patience as we navigate our way through the various phases of reentry during the COVID-19 crisis. Please know the entire staff is working to get services safely up and functioning for our communities.
Over the last three weeks, we have opened our book drops, begun providing curbside and concierge selection of our circulating collections. We have started our summer reading program for children, teens, and adults and provided a range of summer programs and activities for the entire family to enjoy virtually.
Moving forward, we will be expanding library services in the following manner:
- Curbside circulation of library materials will now include Saturdays, at most of our locations. (6/20)
- We will begin printing service via email for residents who need to have prints or photocopies produced. (Starting the week of 6/22)
- The Heritage Room staff will be available electronically or via telephone, to assist with genealogy research. These 45-minute one to one sessions are by appointment and are designed for those working on research projects, those with genealogy questions, and those who need access to materials. (Starting the week of 6/22)
- We are offering virtual computer classes on several topics ranging from keyboard skills to Google Docs to Internet privacy and security. Our one-on-one tutorials are also online now and cover basic computer skills like creating a Word doc, accessing the Internet, and navigating Facebook. Patrons can register for computer classes or tutorials on our library's virtual events calendar and can join in using Google Meet.
Our libraries continue to add remote and virtual services. Please check our webpage and social media for the most current information.
We recognize that many of our patrons rely on the library for access to computers and internet service. As part of our phase 4 plan for reentry, starting in July, we will offer computer access by appointment. Residents will be welcome in the building to use library computers to access the internet. The library administration is currently in the process of formulating the procedures for this service as well as securing the appropriate equipment to ensure a safe environment for patrons and staff. We will keep you informed as these plans solidify.
Again, I would like to thank everyone for their patience as we move through the process of reestablishing library services in this new environment.
Posted May 23, 2020
Dear Library User,
Starting Wednesday, May 27, Athens Regional Library System will begin circulating library materials through curbside service. Curbside service will be available to patrons Monday through Friday between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
Before you come to the library to pick up items, please keep the following in mind:
- We will begin accepting holds on library materials for curbside service. You can place holds as usual by logging into your PINES account or through our library website. You may also call your local branch for assistance.
- You will receive notification when your holds are available for pickup.
- If you placed a hold before the library buildings closed, please check your account at https://gapines.org/eg/opac/login or call the branch, to confirm its availability for pick up.
- To allow staff time to ready your materials, please wait 24 hours after receiving notification, before coming to the library for pickup.
- When you arrive at the branch, call the number that is posted, and follow the directions you will be given.
- Because we only have a limited number of staff working in the facility each day, your wait time may be longer than usual. We appreciate your patience.
- Please remember our library facilities remain closed to the public and there will be no direct contact with staff.
As with many things during this pandemic, the safest course of action will be to continue to use our online resources including reading materials. We have more than doubled our collection of e-books, e-magazines, and are offering a wide variety of free online materials from safe and reputable vendors.
That being said, the library has done everything in our power to reduce risk in the circulation of items. We have implemented the following protective measures for library collections:
- Our staff are required to wear a face mask and gloves when handling library materials.
- Returned library items are being quarantined for 10 days. This decision was based on advice from authorities including the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
This is in addition to the other recommended safety measures such as social distancing, limiting the number of staff working in the buildings, hand hygiene, increased cleaning and disinfecting of library surfaces.
We are able to expand our services with the help of local businesses ADD Drug and Creature Comforts Brewing Company who kindly donated hand sanitizer to the library and the community volunteer group Mask Making for Athens who donated face masks for the staff to wear. We thank them and appreciate their kindness.
We are pleased to be able to offer these expanding services to our community and anticipate expanding the hours of curbside service in the near future.
POSTED MAY 19, 2020
Dear Library User,
On behalf of our Library Boards of Trustees and the library staff members that you have come to care for over the years, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we move through the process of re-establishing physical library services.
We do want to remind you that many library services have been and will continue to be available to our patrons in a virtual format. As our state moves from “stay at home” to “safer at home” recommendations, we encourage patrons to use our on-line services as often as possible to help our local and state officials in their effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The library has developed a phased approach to re-establishing physical library services. Our first phase was moving services to an on-line format. Our second phase is re-opening our bookdrops. The third phase is circulating library materials. The fourth phase is limited access to library facilities and increased internet and computer use.
Starting Monday May 18, a limited number of staff will be allowed back in the buildings to prepare the facilities, collections, and equipment for phase two and phase three.
We will begin phase two on Wednesday, May 20. Bookdrops will be open Monday through Friday between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to allow the safe return of library materials. Please do not feel you have to return your library borrowed items this first week. We have only a limited number of staff to handle the returns. Before you return library materials, please keep the following in mind:
- If there is illness in your home, please do not return any library items.
- No fines are being accrued during this time. We will alert the public before we reinstitute fines.
- Please do not leave materials outside of the bookdrop. If the bookdrop is closed, keep your items until you can safely return them inside the bookdrop on weekdays between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
- Return only library borrowed materials. We are not accepting donations.
- Library materials will be quarantined in the library for ten (10) days before being checked-in and taken off your record.
If all goes well with phase two, we expect to begin phase three on Wednesday, May 27. During this phase, we hope to have curbside holds pick-up available between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to allow the safe circulation of library materials.
We will keep you updated on phase three as plans solidify.
The Boards and staff of the Athens Regional Library System appreciate and thank all our residents and patrons for your support and patience as we navigate through these uncertain times.
Posted April 28, 2020
Dear Library user,
I’d like to offer an update on the operational status of the Athens Regional Library System. In an effort to support our communities and local officials as we slow the spread of the coronavirus, our buildings will not be opening to the public on Monday, April 27, 2020. However, while our facilities are currently closed, our essential services are and have been available to the public through our virtual presence and website. The nature and activities of a public library require us to carefully consider and plan services in this pandemic environment and we do not want to risk the health of our patrons, our staff, or our communities.
We are developing re-entry plans utilizing recommended guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, local, and state government, as well as resources from professional library associations. Our intention is to institute a phased approach that will broaden library services while still maintaining all safety procedures. We will continue to update the public as these plans are solidified. The library staff and boards of trustees appreciate the patience, support, and understanding of our patrons and communities as we complete the design for a safe reopening.
The last several weeks have been busy as our staff has adapted to continue to serve the public while our buildings are closed. Here are some of the things we are doing to bring a sense of normalcy to our communities by increasing our libraries’ virtual presence:
- Our Children’s Services staff are working on plans for the annual summer reading program including programs and activities.
- Additional online programs and activities for children, teens, and adults are in development.
- Our Information Services staff and web team have published a trusted list of COVID-19 resources that can be found on our website.
- Both Ancestry.com and Foundation Directory Online, normally only available in the library facilities, are now accessible through our website.
- We now offer an interactive Reference Chat feature on our website, which is staffed by librarians Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is a great way to get answers about your library account, help with accessing online resources, and more.
- We have created a library FAQ page, which is updated weekly.
- People who don’t already have library cards can now apply for free digital library cards online, which offers access to our full digital collection!
- We continue to expand our collection of electronic books, electronic audiobooks, and electronic magazines. This collection of materials has more than doubled in these last five weeks.
- We are exploring the creation of tutorials on tech tips such as how to use RBDigital, EReadsKids, and more.
- Our leadership team continues to coordinate with local and state officials and has begun planning our procedures for a safe reopening of our facilities.
We would like you to know that we are still here virtually to serve and support you, your families, and our communities until we open our doors again. Please connect with your local libraries on social media for more frequent communications and updates.
In the meantime, please be safe, follow the instructions of your local government, and know that we look forward to seeing and serving you again soon!
Posted March 13, 2020
On behalf of the entire staff, Boards of Trustees, Friends of the Libraries, and volunteers of the Athens Regional Library System, I would like to thank our many concerned patrons and friends for your years of support to your library and your patience during this last difficult week.
The safety and health of our staff, the community, and our community partners led us to the difficult decision to close the libraries to patron use on March 15, 2020. We wrestled with that decision because we are aware of the vital role our libraries play in the well-being of our community and because we wanted to limit the disruption to our patrons’ lives. We first thought we would cancel all library programs and meeting room use and offer instructions to staff and patrons regarding proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing. We soon recognized that those limited actions would not be enough to assist our various county officials in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and “flattening the curve”. It was then that we made the decision to close the libraries to the public.
Until further notice, we are requesting that no materials be returned, and no donations made while the libraries are closed. Of course, there will be no fines accrued during this time.
On a positive note, since closing, our teams have been teleworking to bring some sense of normalcy to the community by increasing our libraries’ virtual presence.
- Our Children’s Services staff have been created a schedule for virtual Storytimes, which will be conducted every weekday Monday through Friday at 10:30. Children will have the opportunity to see their favorite librarians from around our region tell stories.
- A series of craft programs for children is also in the development stage.
- Our Information Services staff and web team have been working to create and publish a trusted list of COVID-19 resources that can be found on our website.
- We are working with our partners at Galileo to offer “Ancestry” from your home.
- We are testing “reference chat” so that patrons can text in with their questions.
- We are planning to have an FAQ regarding our libraries’ services and updates.
- Our collections and materials selection teams have been ordering additional electronic books, electronic audiobooks, and electronic magazines (increasing our holdings by 80 percent).
- We are exploring the creation of tutorials on tech tips such as how to use RBDigital, EReadsKids and more.
We have no way of knowing how long this situation will last, but we want you all to know that we are still here virtually to serve and support you, your families, and our communities until the time comes to open our doors again. I plan to regularly update you on library services as they roll out. Please connect with your local libraries on social media for more frequent communications and updates.
In the meantime, please be safe, follow the instructions of your local government, and know that we will all get through this together.