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Cranbury Public Library developing a plan for phased reopening

A selection of cookbooks the author has recently been drawing inspiration from.

Cranbury Public Library leadership continue their work on a phased reopening plan for the public library as statewide restrictions continue to ease.

Currently the library is virtual with e-books, book clubs, story hours and presentations.

Marilynn Mullen, library director, has been tasked with developing the plan alongside the library Board of Trustees.

“This draft is going to be a working document. We will have a plan based on the guidelines established by a state task force (New Jersey State Library and New Jersey Library Association),” said Kirstie Venanzi, president of the board of trustees. “Library Director Marilynn Mullen is working on the draft. We will finalize a phased reopening plan and continue to work on it even as we move forward in this pandemic.”

The library is located on Cranbury School grounds at 23 N. Main St., and with the school closed for the rest of the academic year it presents a challenge for library.

Access is restricted to Cranbury School facilities and parking lot with caution tape spanning from the auditorium entrance to the tennis courts.

“While we are developing this plan, we are also reaching out to the Cranbury School. Because we are a tenant in the school we have to work closely with them,” Venanzi said. “That dialogue is going to happen. A meeting is being arranged. That meeting is something that would impact our plan. We do not have a date set.”

According to Cranbury School District Superintendent Susan Genco, the school is making arrangements to review state and local resources with library personnel.

“There will still be tweaks needed after we meet with school officials because when things continue to open up if something happens locally we might have to scale things back. The plan will definitely be a living thing we have to work with,” Venanzi said.

On June 1, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan would begin on June 15. As of June 1, a set deadline date or guidelines for libraries was not released by the state.

“We would really love to offer a curbside type of delivery. In other words, people have been taking advantage of the library website and all of the e-books that are on there and programming,” Venanzi said. “But some people really do love the hard copy of a book as well as movies that we could loan out. We are looking at what type of protocol to put in place to keep everyone safe.”

Venanzi added that the library would look at steps published by the Taskforce On Post COVID-19 Alignment, Trends and Strategies (TOPCATS) as part of template for reopening.

The group includes leadership from LibraryLinkNJ, New Jersey State Library, New Jersey Library Association, and New Jersey Library Trustees Association.

Some of the guidelines the group has published for libraries in the state include requiring employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing; provide sanitizing products for staff and for the public; schedule staff in the building in phases and on a staggered basis; keep same teams together; and open book drops for return of materials.

“Keeping people safe is not only for the public when we are loaning items out, but also for our staff,” Venanzi said. “We realize we are going to have to take baby steps. It looks to be a situation where we only allow a certain amount of people in an at a time.”

The library’s leadership will also look to expand upon the virtual features already being provided moving forward through the pandemic.

“We also want to expand more reference questions. When the building closed we asked our patrons to hold onto the books they had taken out prior to the closing and we are figuring out how those books can get returned,” she said. “We want to work this out in conjunction with the school.”

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