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Some Tampa Bay Area Libraries Begin To Reopen

blurred rows of library shelves with books
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Florida libraries are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, but the decision is up to local governments.

According to “Phase 1” of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida, libraries can open at 25 percent capacity. However, the plan leaves the decision up to local governments.

Some Tampa Bay area counties are acting quicker than others to reopen.

Libraries were forced to physically close to patrons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many systems are serving as pick-off and drop-off points for people who are unable to print state unemployment applications. They also continue to offer digital resources.

Now, they’re beginning to figure out how to best reopen to the public.

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Hernando County was among the first to do so. On Monday, May 4, individual locations opened with a number of restrictions: no more than 25 percent capacity, which depends on the size of each location; computer access follows social distance guidelines and use is limited to 30 minutes; limited hours, depending on location; and all locations close between noon and 2 p.m. every day for cleaning and the shelving of books.

Citrus County Libraries also resumed curbside pick-up of pre-requested items on Monday, May 4. All locations other than the Floral City branch are doing this Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. People may request items online through the library catalog.

Pasco County is reopening libraries on a phased basis. Starting Thursday, May 7, book drops will be open and sixty-minute computer sessions will be available by appointment only at the system’s five open branches. On Monday, May 11, curbside service will be offered. Patrons are asked to call ahead and a library employee will bring materials to them outside.

And on May 18, Pasco will reopen branches to the public, with employees stationed outside to limit the number of people allowed in. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced. Library team members will be wearing face masks and patrons will also be asked to wear a mask to enter the building.

Sarasota County Libraries began offering curbside pickup for items that have been placed on hold by cardholders on Monday, May 4. People can place holds on materials at scgov.net/library or by calling 941-861-1110.

Pinellas Public Library Cooperative plans to begin opening on May 11 through June 1, depending on the location.  Access to the buildings will be limited according to social distancing guidelines. They recommend people look at specific locations’ websites and social media platforms for more details.

Polk County Library Cooperative continues offering Books-by-Mail lending services where people can request materials online. Book drops remain open at ten locations.

Both the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative and Manatee County Public Libraries remain closed. Material holds can be placed but will not be made available until both systems reopen.

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