Local libraries reopen their doors to the public


During the pandemic – especially when the stay-at-home order went into effect – many people rekindled their interest in reading. Unfortunately, public libraries closed and free access to books became more limited.  

But with vaccination rates increasing and Covid case numbers decreasing, local libraries have begun to reopen. 

“The Richards Memorial Library is now open for browsing. Patrons are asked to wear a mask, limit their browsing time to under 20 minutes, and limit bringing children under the age of 12 inside the library. However, if you place a book on hold, they can still be picked up in the foyer of the library, the same as curbside pickup,” said senior Katherine Schmalz. 

The Regional interacted with libraries, even without being able to visit them in person. 

“I’ve used the public library regularly over the last year, even though I haven’t visited a library in person in more than a year. I mostly use the Holden Gale Free Library’s book request and pickup service to request books online and pick them in the library vestibule. At WRHS, we’ve circulated (borrowed) about 140 books from the public library over the course of this school year,” said media specialist Alana Stern. “This allows us to offer a much wider selection of books to teachers and students than we normally would be able to, especially for small reading groups or multiple copies of new titles.” 

English teacher Sarah Lefebvre said she had a similar experience. 

“I have interacted with libraries since last March by using the app ‘Libby’ which is connected to the area libraries so I can borrow ebooks and audiobooks. I have also reserved books at the Gale Free Library and Paxton Library for pick up for my daughters who are 6 and 2. And I have reserved books for students to borrow as well,” said Lefebvre.

The recent announcement lifting COVID-19 protocols has provided a light at the end of the tunnel for many libraries in the Regional district area. 

“Starting on May 17th, we opened to the public again with limited capacity. That means that you no longer have to make an appointment, and you can come to the library at any time during our open hours,” said Holden librarian Kayla Casiello. “We are hoping to do some programs over the summer, which will be hosted outside.”

With the pandemic putting more focus on the libraries’ virtual capabilities, Casiello worked to improve the library’s website. 

“I’ve been trying to really up our website and social media presence. Our website has been completely redone at this point. I’ve really been working on the Kids Page and the teen page to make it less stagnant just because accessing things digitally has been so important throughout this all,” said Casiello.

Casiello also redesigned the young adult section of the library to make it more engaging for teens.  

“I decided that we were going to do a complete space redo with new bookcases, new furniture. My main focus is paying attention to that collection. I weeded out a bunch of books that were at least 10 plus years old and I’ve been ordering new books to really revamp the collection,” said Casiello. 

Casiello’s enthusiasm for expanding the outreach of the Gale Free Library has attracted the attention of the Regional staff. 

“The new teen space is great. Kayla Casiello has some great ideas to reinvigorate the teen space at the Gale Free Library, and I’m really excited to see in-person what she’s done with the space. She’s really thought a lot about our local population and how to best serve our community. I think it looks so much more welcoming, and the book collection she’s curating is fantastic,” said Stern. 

As restrictions on social distancing lessen, Casiello said she hopes to see more interaction with patrons in the libraries.

“I would love to see some new faces coming into the library and I’m really hoping that more students start coming back to the library. I know it was very different for a while but you know we’re making big changes so stop by and let us know you know what you’re looking for,” said Casiello. 

Stern said all of these changes can only benefit Mountaineers. 

“We’re hoping to build a strong partnership between WRHS and Gale Free. I hope folks take her up on the leadership, challenge, and social events the library will be offering this summer and next school year,” said Stern. “I want folks from WRHS to know that they really have a lot of say in what the library chooses to offer in terms of events and special opportunities, but their voices will only be heard if they speak up. I’m very hopeful for how our two libraries can work together in the future.”