Vernon Area Public Library will continue building capacity for online and curbside services and will not open the building to the public in the near future -- a course recommended by library administrators and affirmed by the library board of trustees at their regular meeting on July 20, 2020.
The announcement parallels that of Adlai E. Stevenson High School District 125, Vernon Hills School District 128, and other local school districts who have recently announced they will use a remote learning model for the fall semester.
The reasons given by library officials for the decision are both philosophical and practical. "We are a public service, and as such, must operate in the best interest of the public," said library spokesperson Catherine Savage. "Right now, that means offering services in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our community."
Logistically, it is not possible for the library to provide curbside pickup and also allow public access inside the building, explained Stephen Territo, Vernon Area Library head of operations. The public library space has been reconfigured for employee workstations "to allow for the maximum number of employees while keeping to capacity limits and social distancing recommendations from the CDC, OSHA and FEMA," explained Territo.
Currently, approximately 50 library employees report in-person each workday to catalog new books and fulfill the curbside delivery of patron online orders. Accounting and information technology staff also work on-site.
Remaining staff work from home to provide all other library services remotely, including phone, email, chat and teleconference-based reference help, online programming, and even 3-D print fulfillment.
"Library services have continued almost uninterrupted," said Savage. "We're just providing those services in some new ways."
The library has also put construction of a drive-up window on the fast track. Initial plans are under review with the Village of Lincolnshire. Officials hope to have it in place this winter so that pickup services can continue safely.