When the DeWitt library staff moved to its new building in May, it didn’t have to haul some 3,500 books, DVDs and other items that patrons had checked out.

Even though the library had closed its doors earlier in the spring due to the coronavirus, curbside service was instituted for a week in May partly to pare down the 43,000 items in the library’s collection that were to be relocated to the new building so renovations on the old building could begin. 

But now the library is ready to put those items back on the shelves and is asking people to return them to the book drops at the new entrance on Fifth Avenue. One slot is for books and one for media materials.

“As of today, we have about 1,870 items checked out, 870 of which are now considered overdue,” said Jillian Aschliman, library director, at the library board’s regular meeting Sept. 2.

The library doesn’t have late fees, and it has been sending overdue reminders to patrons that it needs the items back in its collection. The library won’t charge replacement costs until late September or early October since patrons “had to hold on to them much longer than normal,” Aschliman said. 

As the long-awaited $5.7 million construction project – which will more than triple the library’s size and add many improvements – progresses, the pandemic has slowed the construction progress and cut off much of the public’s access to the library.

The construction crews have had to operate differently, and the arrival of furniture and other materials for the project has been impacted by the pandemic as production and delivery in many industries has slowed. 

Meanwhile, between being closed because of the coronavirus and for the move (as previously planned) it has been months since the public has been able to set foot in the library.

 “It’s been a challenge. It’s been really hard to be a library because our staff thrives on customer service and working with our patrons,” Aschliman said.

“Even when we reopen we’ll still be taking precautions,” so the contact won’t be like it was before the pandemic, she said.

She hopes the library will be able to open to the public on a limited basis by the end of the month. That would be Phase 3 under a six-phase reopening plan announced earlier this year.

A limited number of patrons – 15 max – will be allowed into the facility for 20 minutes at a time; extensions will be made for those filling our job applications, unemployment claims, and other necessary duties, although those people are encouraged to call and set up an appointment time to conduct that business. Patrons will be required to wear a mask, and must wipe down computers, keyboards, etc. after use. All materials must still be left in the drop boxes. Public restrooms and the nursing room will not be open. 

In Phase I, materials available for consumption are digital only. Phase 2, which is the current stage, includes contactless, curbside pickup service.