Now that Gov. Ned Lamont has issued guidance for libraries to re-open as part of the state’s Phase 2 post-COVID pandemic response, Wilton Library staff has been working diligently to bring the best possible practices to its re-opening plans with the ultimate goal of keeping patrons and staff safe.

Library officials are looking forward to getting back to more face-to-face interaction with patrons. Although the building won’t completely open to the public just yet, there are small steps the library is taking to begin re-opening, while also adhering to local guidelines.

For now, the way they’ll be doing that is by moving face-to-face operations solely to the library’s drive-thru window, which will be open for patrons to pick up physical materials beginning Monday, June 22 at 10 a.m.. The drive-thru window, which is located on Godfrey Place, will be open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The library is closed on Sundays in the summer.

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome people back to our drive-thru window,” Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of Wilton Library, said. “Our patrons responded wonderfully to using our Digital Library during this time and we greatly appreciate all of the positive feedback we have received. Keeping up with everyone’s reading and entertainment activities kept us very busy behind the scenes. And now we’re ready to see smiling faces in their cars.”

While Lamont’s Phase 2 guidelines do allow for libraries to admit the public inside, Wilton Llibrary officials have opted to remain closed to the public for now. Janet Crystal, the library’s marketing communications manager, explained there are countless details that are involved in making sure both staff and patrons stay safe. 

“With the ordering of essential [Personal Protective Equipment] and disinfecting supplies, creating partitions for all our service desks, removing and rearranging furniture, disinfecting and quarantining more than 8,000 items that have been living in people’s homes, we are being very vigilant about ensuring the safety of our staff and patrons alike,” Crystal said. “We miss seeing everyone and we would love to throw our doors wide open and welcome the community on Day One. As one of the largest ‘retail’ establishments in Wilton and as its community center, we know that we must do the right things, and we must do them right. It is with that in mind that we are cautiously re-opening the library building in stages.”

Starting slowly with just window service allows the library to get physical materials into patrons’ hands as quickly and safely as possible, while giving library staff an opportunity to work through the details set by the state directives and local guidelines.

Before the drive-thru will be opened, the library is asking patrons to return their borrowed items to the blue return bin in the library’s parking lot beginning Tuesday, June 16.  This is the only place where items will be able to be returned. Library staff will disinfect and quarantine the items for 72 hours, then the materials will be processed, re-shelved and made ready for borrowing. Patron accounts will be updated within seven days after items have been returned. 

With the June 22 opening of the drive-thru window, patrons will be able to pick up their items they have placed on hold ahead of time. They will be notified by either email, text, or phone when their items will be available to be picked up at the drive-thru window. All materials being returned must be dropped off in the blue return bin and will not be able to be returned at the window. This ensures that all items will be quarantined in the proper way and that only reserved materials will go through the drawer at the window.

“We have been working with the town health director and other frontline professionals to ensure that the library’s processes and procedures are following state and local guidelines to keep the public and our staff safe,” Tai-Lauria noted.

Karen Zeibak, circulation manager for Wilton Library, added that the library has taken steps to make things easier for patrons during the extended closure period.

“During the last few months, overdue fees have been waived and due dates have been extended. This allowed everyone to keep the materials in their own homes. Due dates have been extended through July 31 and we will continue to waive overdue fees through July 31 for all items checked out prior to our closing in March. By relaxing these dates, this gives people a chance to bring back their items without having to rush in.”

The donation bins on Godfrey Place will remain closed for now.

Wilton Library continues to offer its Digital Library 24/7. Anyone needing assistance with downloading eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines or streaming movies, TV shows and more, may email the library’s reference librarians.

Anyone wishing to reserve items may visit the Wilton Library website under “Catalog.” Those wishing to renew their Wilton Library cards to continue taking advantage of the Digital Library can call 203.762.6334 or email Karen Zeibak.