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Public library reopens; children's room remains closed

Despite new rules, people eager to return to Barrington library

By Josh Bickford
Posted 6/23/20

Welcome back!

Barrington Public Library welcomed back patrons last week, reopening its doors after being closed for more than a month.

It was a "soft opening" of sorts, not heavily advertised …

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Public library reopens; children's room remains closed

Despite new rules, people eager to return to Barrington library


Welcome back!

Barrington Public Library welcomed back patrons last week, reopening its doors after being closed for more than a month.

It was a "soft opening" of sorts, not heavily advertised as officials carefully balance a return to in-person services with an extensive list of restrictions and guidelines:

The library building is open, but people must wear masks;

The computers are available, but appointments are required;

Browsing for titles is allowed, but visits are limited to 30 minutes.

Despite the new rules, people were very eager to return to the library, said Kris Chin, the director of the library.

"People really missed it," she said. "I have people who are so excited to come in."

Barrington Public Library enjoys more visits — per capita — than nearly every other library in the state. And when officials closed the building in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, patrons wasted little time asking when the facility would re-open.

Ms. Chin said she was hesitant on bringing back any of the services early on, as she wanted to keep her staff and the library patrons as safe as possible. In fact, Barrington's library was one of the last in the state to offer a curbside pickup program.

"We waited until mid-May," Ms. Chin said.

"There was a lot of anxiety about this (among staff members and town officials). But this isn't our library. This is the community's library."

The library director said Barrington had bulked up on its electronic offerings, including eBooks, which people could access from their own devices. But Ms. Chin and other staff members quickly realized that the local library patrons wanted "real books."

When Barrington began offering curbside pickup, the orders flooded in. The program requires a bit more advance notice, but it has grown in popularity.

Ms. Chin said that while Barrington was one of the last libraries in the state to offer curbside pickup, it became one of the first to reopen its doors. Monday, June 15 served as the first day of in-person access to the library, and right from the start, people were ready to return.

Ms. Chin said there are new rules everyone must follow while inside the library (see associated story), and certain services are not yet available. For starters, officials have not reopened the children's room on the second floor of the library. Ms. Chin said it would be difficult to ensure safe usage of the room with young children.

"It's a high-touch area," she said. "Kids come in here and expect to play with the toys. They expect to play with each other."

Officials have also blocked access to the stacks, in an effort to better manage the space they have. The teen room, and all meeting and study spaces are also closed for now.

Most of the space on the main floor is open to the public, and reference and circulation services are available.

Ms. Chin said current restrictions limit library capacity to 18 people at one time.

There are also new hours: the library is open Mondays through Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Quarantine for books

The new protocols for the library include a 72-hour quarantine for books and other materials. Any volumes checked out are kept in a separate bin for a 72-hour period upon their return to the library. Once that time has passed, the items are again made available to patrons.

Ms. Chin said the health department guidance only calls for a 24-hour quarantine but officials in Barrington opted for a longer period of time.

The library is not charging any fees or fines for overdue materials currently.

Ms. Chin also said the book sale held by the Friends of Barrington Public Library has been moved online.

New library rules and programs

There are some new rules and restrictions in place for the reopening of the town's public library, as well as some new offerings:

Curbside pickup (Call circulation at 401-247-1920 ext. 3)

Library staff will take calls to reserve library materials during open hours. The easiest way to find materials is to search the online catalog and limit a search to items currently available at Barrington Public Library. No more than five items may be requested per visit. When you arrive at your reserved time, wait in your car and call the number on the sidewalk sign outside the entrance of the library. Your items will be placed in a paper bag with your name written on the outside. A staff member will place the bag on the sidewalk at the bottom of the entrance stairs. Please wait for the staff member to go back inside the library before leaving your car to retrieve your items.

Placing holds

The state’s book delivery service is not running at full capacity yet, so there will be a limit of 10 items you can put on hold from other libraries. The items you placed on hold before the library closed will count toward the 10 items, so you may need to prioritize your list. 

Item returns and late fees

You may return items at any time in the outside bookdrop. All returned items will be held in quarantine for at least 48 hours before being checked in. There will be no late fees at this time.

Limited access to all areas

The McCulloch Children’s Room, Teen Room, and all meeting and study spaces will be closed during this phase. Books and other materials can be requested from the children’s and teen collections, and there will be displays with Summer Reading materials and the most current titles on the main floor. No more than five items may be requested per visit.

Stacks closed

You will be able to browse new books, media area, and many new displays of books, and of course, we’ll be happy to retrieve items from the stacks for you. No more than five items may be requested per visit.

Computer use

To be sure that the public computers are at their cleanest, we will have only four available on a first-come, first-served basis. Users will only receive 30-minute computer usage. If all four computers are in use, ask at the Reference Desk to reserve a computer.

Technology help available

For Tech Help, please call 401-247-1920 ext. 2. We are unable to assist patrons with technology in person, but we will continue to assist as much as we can via phone, email or chat. Or join the Virtual Tech Help on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Register on our website for the Zoom link.

Free public wi-fi in parking lot

We upgraded our free public Wi-Fi and it now extends to the far end of the parking lot. Please remember to stay inside your vehicle and follow safe social distancing practices. There is no password required to join our free public wi-fi network.

Business services (printers, copiers, fax, notary)

Self-service copier is available, along with printers and fax machine. Mobile printing also available. Print jobs are free up to $2. We cannot make change for the coin machine. Notary public is not available during Phase 2.

Virtual programs

In this phase the most inclusive and safest way we can offer a wide selection of programs remains virtual. 

 Live chat

For questions, call us at 401-247-1920, contact us through our Live Librarian Chat on our website, or email

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