The Wallingford Public Library temporarily closed its building to visitors Monday, but plans to continue to provide borrowing services and virtual programs.
According to a statement on the library’s website, the main branch at 200 N. Main St. closed due to rising COVID-19 infection rates, the more contagious virus variant that has been found in New Haven County, and “serious concerns about compliance with the library’s mask policy.”
“We will continue monitoring this situation carefully and look forward to reopening again as soon as safely possible. Until then, take care and stay safe,” the statement said.
The library’s Yalesville branch has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic last March.
Wallingford Library Director Jane Fisher said Monday that the goal of closing the library is to protect all patrons and staff. No COVID-19 cases have originated from the library so far that she knows of, she said.
Fisher said closure was her decision, “knowing the Board (of Directors) would support it.”
She said about 90 percent of library patrons wear effective face masks and wear them properly over their nose and mouth, based on what staff have observed.
Challenges to enforcing the policy come when patrons allow their masks to slip below the nose, wear face coverings that are known to be less effective — like bandanas, scarves, neck gaiters and masks with vents or valves — or wait until they’re inside to put a mask on.
She said the library is considering changing its policy on face coverings, which may be met with resistance from some patrons.
“We know we can’t completely eliminate the risks,” she said, “but we’d like to do better, especially in light of the more contagious COVID variant and the overall increase in rates.”
The library plans to continue to offer its no-contact Park n’ Pickup service, homebound delivery and Chromebook kits and Wi-fi hotspots for patrons to access the internet at home.
Fisher said that sometimes people may not know what they want to read. Library staff are available over the phone 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
“We love to help people figure out what they want to read,” she said, “so they can call us, tell us about their reading interests, or they can go on our (online) catalog and get some suggestions … Nobody should be without a book, or a lot of books, during this time.”
Other libraries to remain open
Other libraries in the area currently have neither plans to close nor reduce hours or accessibility to the public.
Meriden Library Director Cle Roseboro said Monday that he welcomes Wallingford residents to the Meriden library in the meantime.
The Meriden library also has protocols for entering building, including wearing a mask and asking COVID-related health questions.
The Meriden Public Library’s modified open hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. On Fridays, the library is open for curbside pickup only. On Sundays, the building is closed.
Cheshire Library Director Beth Crowley said via email Monday that there are no plans to reduce in-person access or hours.
“We are closely monitoring the situation with Town Management and the Chesprocott Health district,” she said, “and will announce any changes or updates on our website, the Town website, and through our marketing and social media channels.”
Southington’s town Human Resource Manager Michelle Passamano said via email Monday that there has not been any conversation regarding changes to the current operations at the Southington Public Library.
“The Town Manager participates in weekly meetings with the Director of Health for Plainville-Southington Health District,” Passamano said.
Southington library executive director, Kristi Sadowski, is on medical leave, according to library board members. Assistant director Sandy DiCicco is filling in for Sadowski.
—Jesse Buchanan contributed to this story.