Your Turn: One year after closing, South Brunswick Library staff sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Library Barbara Butchen at the Information Services Desk of the South Brunswick Library.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTH BRUNSWICK LIBRARY
Library Barbara Butchen at the Information Services Desk of the South Brunswick Library.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTH BRUNSWICK LIBRARY

In South Brunswick, the date of March 13, 2020, will be remembered as the day a pandemic closed the doors of the South Brunswick Public Library, along with the rest of our community, state, country and the world.

Some places closed days before and some after, but we all closed.

Nothing like this had ever happened in any of our lifetimes. We thought the closing might be for a day or maybe a week, but no one could have guessed it would pass one year.

The lockdown was meant to protect us against the novel virus COVID-19. People were getting sick and dying all over the world, even in South Brunswick. We didn’t know what hit us, but acclimate we did.

Our physical doors shut, but our phones and internet stayed open. We all learned a few new tricks and we kept up service as best we could and continue to do so.

“The goal has always been to maintain a consistent level of service,” Library Director Chris Carbone said.

The library even invited the public to share our Wi-Fi in our parking lot while they sat with their laptops in their cars.

Staff kicked into high gear to keep services going and jumped through hoops to provide the community access to books and materials in ways not done before. Staff created dozens of programs into virtual programs so that we could come to you in the safety of your home.   

That is how it started.

Throughout this year our accessibility has changed with state guidelines and governor’s orders. We have closed, reopened, allowed curbside pickup and then browsing, then closed again and reopened for just contact-free pickup.

That is where we are at now.

No, we are still not back to normal, true. But, numbers are dropping since the recent development of new vaccines and as more and more people are vaccinated the number of dead and dying is dropping and the number of restrictions lifted.

According to the South Brunswick Police Department COVID-19 Report, as of March 10 we had a total of 60 pass away and 2,160 ill in the past year. As of March 8 no new deaths had been reported for two weeks and new cases had dropped to 42.

Carbone said he is beginning to see some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. If things continue to improve as is anticipated, the library could begin to slowly phase in its reopening plan as early as mid-April. That’s just a few weeks away.

We will keep you up to date on the specifics as we get closer. Meanwhile, the library is grateful for the continued support, patience and understanding of the South Brunswick community that it serves.

We have tried to express our gratitude to the public in different small ways, such as waiving any fees for movie and video game rentals, and recently we started putting little thank you notes in the patrons’ pick-up bags. We event put in a fortune cookie for the Lunar New Year.

Hang in there, South Brunswick.

You have been so understanding and supportive and we are grateful. We hope to actually see you very soon. Know that your library is also looking beyond the next step to reopen.

We plan to do more than just get back to normal. We are looking to the future to build our library into the greatest facility it can be for the next generation.

Stay tuned!

Rosemary Gohd handles publicity and marketing for the South Brunswick Public Library.