The Jefferson County Library will reopen its three branch libraries for limited hours and services starting Monday, March 15. The library rolled back to curbside service only at the end of November when COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths began to surge not just locally but all over the state and across the country.
“We’ve been tracking those statistics ever since, hoping to see a sufficient decrease that would allow us to reopen,” said retiring JCL director Pam Klipsch. “I’m so very glad to see this day come while I am still here!” Klipsch said the reopening is almost one year to the day that the library, like so many other organizations and businesses, shut down at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The Arnold, Northwest and Windsor Branch Libraries, located in Arnold, High Ridge and Barnhart, will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The branches will close each day between noon and 2 p.m. so that staff can perform necessary functions and re-sanitize high-use areas, jobs that can’t be done when the public is in the building.
Staff will be available to answer phone and e-mail inquiries throughout the day. On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, the library will continue to provide curbside service only, for those who are not yet comfortable with coming into the buildings, Klipsch said.
The library’s Central Services Office, adjacent to the Northwest Branch, will continue to be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Klipsch said, since that is where deliveries of new books and materials for the collections are received and processed, as well as other supplies, including the large amount of PPE needed to operate safely in the current environment.
In-coming director Tony Benningfield said that restoration of full services would depend on when library employees would be able to get their COVID vaccinations. “As of right now,” Benningfield said, “library workers, even though we work directly with the public and provide essential services, are not on Missouri’s schedule for priority vaccinations.”
He said the library would not be able to provide inside programs, or allow local organizations to use library meeting rooms for the immediate future. “We are still using our meeting rooms for quarantine areas for returned materials, and to store furniture and equipment and some items that can’t be easily sanitized, so we can’t check them out for the time being.”
“We will have a summer reading program for children and teens this summer,” Benningfield promised, “but our activity programs will have to be held outdoors in nearby parks or virtually. We are also planning to celebrate the Missouri Bicentennial with various off-site and outdoor events and virtual programs.”
“We appreciate the support and understanding we’ve received from the community during this difficult time,” Klipsch said. “I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are to reopen and see our patrons again. We’ve missed you all very much and we look forward to reconnecting.”