Libraries will have limited opening Monday

Venango County’s three public libraries are working out the details this week to prepare for a limited opening to the public on Monday.

“This is our practice week,” said Dan Flaherty, executive director of the Oil Region Library Association that includes the Oil City, Franklin and Cooperstown libraries. We are working out all the logistics.”

Public libraries are included in Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration that the region would enter a green designation, one that further expands re-opening of businesses deemed non-essential, on Friday.

However, there are remaining restrictions in place from state agencies that oversee public libraries.

The three local libraries have been closed since March 13. In the interim, the association’s 19 full- and part-time employees have worked at home to oversee ongoing digital programming, cataloging shipments of new books and other materials, and developing new programs.

This week, the staff is working on-site at the three libraries.

What is due to be rolled out Monday is a curbside pick-up service of library materials. Patrons will be able to call the library or go online, ask for materials to be put on hold and then reserve a time to pick up the materials outside each library.

“This is all new for us so we are developing it,” said Flaherty.

Public entry into each of the three libraries will depend on state directives. The state library organization does not yet recommend public access beyond an enclosed lobby.

“We are hopeful we’ll get further guidance this week from the state as to when we can open the whole building in each community,” said Flaherty. “People are really waiting for that to happen.”

During the shutdown, though, all three public libraries have seen significant upticks in the use of online and virtual programs offered by the facilities.

“We have had a definite increase in our digital access,” said Flaherty. “And we had two dozen people sign up within just a few days for our new online registration. That program didn’t exist before the pandemic and the interest shown in it was wonderful. So, we have been real busy, even while physically closed. But, we can’t wait until we’re fully open.”