Sep. 17—PLATTSBURGH — Readers itching to get their nose in a book at the Plattsburgh Public Library will first need to cover it.
The Oak Street library has since Aug. 19 asked patrons to mask up when visiting its stacks.
Such a mandate was first in place when the library reopened after its COVID hibernation earlier this year, but was later lifted.
Library Director Anne de la Chappelle said the decision to revert back to the masking policy was in response to rising local case numbers and was an issue of public safety.
"We're (library staff) all vaccinated, but when breakthrough cases were coming about — we just don't feel comfortable carding people for vaccines. We have such a mixed population of elderly and kids who can't get vaccinated.
"It just seemed like the right thing to do."
In addition to the masking policy, current COVID precautions at the library include sanitizing stations and air purifiers in rooms with little ventilation.
"We're not quarantining materials any longer," de la Chappelle said, referring to a protocol in place locally and at libraries regionwide early on in the pandemic.
Steve Kenworthy, director of the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System, told the Press-Republican in April that precaution ended when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced surface transmission of COVID-19 was not a danger.
"They said it's less than 1 in 10,000 chance of picking up the virus from a surface," he had said. "With that backing, we are kind of following the science and not quarantining materials anymore."
Plattsburgh Public Library is no longer hosting its weekly Thursday morning story hours, de la Chappelle said.
"Over the summer (Youth Services Librarian Ben Carman) was actually doing two readings and mostly outside on the lawn, but once the numbers started going up. . . he didn't want to encourage groups getting together."
The library director said pre-COVID regulars were starting to return and said others were regularly visiting the library to pick up books and other materials.
Still, de la Chappelle has noticed some drops in library traffic.
In March 2020, Chapter One Coffee and Tea checked out of the Plattsburgh Public Library to serve caffeinated beverages out of a storefront on City Hall Place.
"We lost that traffic that came in for the coffee shop," de la Chappelle said. "It was good timing for them and I think they're doing very well where they are, but, at the same time, we hoped that it would be short-lived and we would put out a RFP (request for proposals) and get a new someone in there. but, I haven't even bothered, because we just don't know what's going to happen."
A new vendor will "absolutely" be considered in the future, she added.
"I think it added a lot to the library."
Plattsburgh Public Library has been hosting less meetings for local organizations leading to less evening visitors, de la Chappelle noted.
"We're noticing that after 5 p.m. there is hardly anyone coming in."
With COVID cases on the rise locally, regionally and nationally, de la Chappelle said reclosing library doors in the future was not off the table.
"Anything is possible," she said. "If the numbers continue to climb the way that they look like they could, then we could consider that. I really can't predict, but I have no problem. I have no problem if that's what we need to do."
When Plattsburgh Public Library closed last year, its workforce was furloughed for three months as leadership adjusted to pandemic protocols and created a book pickup system. Should the library close to the public again, the library director said that system was ready to go this time.
"We now know the steps that we can take to go back the other way."
For now, de la Chappelle said visitors are checking out books, new books are hitting the shelves and the library is "going forward like everything is going to be fine."
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