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Portsmouth Free Public Library set to reopen Monday, July 6

Patrons are discouraged from staying too long, however

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PORTSMOUTH — Bookworms rejoice. The Portsmouth Free Public Library is reopening on Monday, July 6, for limited browsing and computer appointments.

“We are cleared to go into Phase 3, based on (Gov.) Gina Raimondo’s guidance,” said Carol Magnus, library directory.

Patrons will need to wear a face mask inside the library, which will have a decidedly different look, she said.

“We’re going to have arrows and a lot of signage. There are some tables blocking access to certain areas. We’re trying to maintain a certain traffic flow,” Ms. Magnus said. 

There will be no newspapers available at the library at this time, which is one way to keep patrons from staying too long. 

“The deal is, it’s kind of like a restaurant — but it’s takeout, not eat-in. We’re trying to discourage people from staying for a long time,” she said.

The circulation desk will have a plexiglas shield between patrons and staff, and visitors will be asked to check out their own materials. “We can actually have them scan their own cards and the items they’re checking out,” Ms. Magnus said.

The library had been offering a curbside pickup service, but that will be altered to have patrons come inside to retrieve their requested items. “People can call up and request items and we’ll ask them if they’d like us to put the items on a table at the front door,” she said.

Computer appointments

Most of the computers at the library have been removed for the time being — again, to encourage social distancing, she said. 

“There had been a stack of 12 computers. We only have four of those computers now,” she said.

The library is taking appointments for people to use each computer for 30 minutes. “If they need more time, they can stay for up to an hour and a half, but it’s dependent on our availability,” she said, adding that the keyboards and mice are swapped out and disinfected after every appointment. 

There are no current plans to restart programming at the library, due to the six-foot distancing regulations. However, the library is still offering a virtual summer reading program using the Beanstack software, which was purchased by the R.I. Office of Library & Information Services for all public libraries.

“It’s basically logging in what you’re reading, and I believe there are certain ‘challenges,’” she said, adding that registration for the program started June 15.

After the library closed in March, it began offering virtual book discussion groups for adults. Both she and Sue Rousseau, a reference and young adult librarian, host them.

Ms. Magnus said she looks forward to the day when residents can come to the library and lounge with a book or newspaper for as long as possible.

“It’s so hard for the staff, too. They’re used to seeing patrons,” she said.

The library’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. For more information, call 401/683-9457 or visit portsmouthlibrary.org.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.