Laura Dean Bennett
Cree Lahti, the Director of the Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitor Information Centers, wants Pocahontas County residents and visitors to know that Covid-19 is not going to impede the wide range of services that the libraries offer.
“With a few modifications and restrictions, our libraries are open and ready to receive patrons,” Lahti said.
Lahti gave a rundown of the safety protocols that the libraries have put in place.
“We’re following the Governor’s guidelines for public governmental spaces, and we’ve made all the necessary accommodations to ensure the safety of our patrons and our staff.
“And we’re adhering to the West Virginia DHHR capacity limits based on building square footage as to how many patrons may be in the library at the same time.
“We’ve installed plexiglass panels at the checkout desks.
“We ask patrons to press a doorbell to be admitted and all staff and patrons are required to wear face coverings.
“The librarians are sanitizing all surfaces regularly and each computer station after every use,” she said.
At this point, the public restrooms and kitchens in the libraries have to be kept closed to the public as are the meeting rooms.
“We are happy to be able to open our doors to the community and we appreciate their patience and cooperation with all the necessary safety precautions we’ve had to take,” Lahti continued.
“There’s still so much we don’t know about this virus, and we want to err on the side of caution.
“We know that many local civic organizations miss being able to use our meeting rooms. We’re making provisions for them to use a library “Zoom” account for online meetings, so they can resume their organization’s business.”
If your organization would like information about scheduling a “Zoom” meeting, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-799-6000.
Following the new pandemic guidelines, patrons can peruse the stacks, check out books and –after sanitizing their hands – read current magazines and newspapers.
They may use a computer, make Xerox copies, send a fax, avail themselves of research assistance, genealogical research and the shelves of free books – and book sale books are still available.
“We hope to be offering ‘Make-And-Take’ activity bags throughout the year for our youngest patrons, similar to what we did with children this summer,” Lahti said.
“We provided an art project that the child could take home, complete and bring back for us to display at the library, which everyone really enjoyed.”
Tourists and visitors may still stop by for directions and visitor information about Nature’s Mountain Playground.
“We serve quite a few out-of-towners who have questions about the county,” Lahti said.
“And we’re glad to do it.”
Another valuable resource at the libraries is their WiFi service.
As permitted by the West Virginia Library Commission, WiFi has been made available to the public – whether they are library patrons or not – at libraries statewide during the pandemic.
Those wishing to use a library’s WiFi, will find that they can connect inside the library, or in the parking lot or on the porch of any Pocahontas County library, except the Green Bank Library, which is not permitted to have WiFi because of its location in the “Quiet Zone” near the Green Bank Observatory.
“Yes, Green Bank may be the only library in the entire country without WiFi these days,” Lahti noted.
In addition to the public access to WiFi at the libraries themselves, in the near future, students will be able to use their student IDs to access a library’s WiFi from home or another location.
“We’re going to give the school system a week or two to get settled and sort out the needs we can help with, but we’re hoping to offer as much assistance to teachers and students as we possibly can,” Lahti said.
“As the school year progresses, we’ll be here to assist teachers and students in finding books, doing research and getting access to educational materials that they may need.
“We can help them log onto the WVReads system which makes eBooks and audio books available to the public and to young readers.
“We’ll continue to field requests from library patrons looking for a particular title or needing help in researching our resources,” she added.
“But we want to encourage patrons who are able to come in and would like to ‘get back to normal’ at their library to come on in. We’ve made it as safe as we can.
“Our curbside service has been very popular, and we’re still offering it.