Because of the pandemic currently afflicting the United States and the inability to predict when it will be safe to meet for community activities, the Stone Ridge Library Board of Trustees has decided to cancel its annual Library Fair that was scheduled for early June. This would have been the 75th annual Library Fair.
The Fair is the Library’s signature event, with thousands of Marbletown residents coming to buy books and plants, eat strawberries and hamburgers, and meet with their neighbors. “We know how important an event it is,” said Board President Susanne Warren. “But the safety of our neighbors, our volunteers and our staff comes first.”
The Library is now considering an event this fall that might include a plant or book sale that mimics the Fair, but on a smaller scale. The issue was discussed at the Board’s April meeting, which was held via a remote Internet connection.
The Board decided to cancel the Fair at this time because it was at the point of having to reserve tents and various other items. Also, the Library had to begin to assemble volunteers and vendors, who have been so generous with their time and money each year, Warren pointed out.
The Library is now closed, of course, as are all public institutions that interact extensively with the public. Last year the Library had nearly 55,000 visitors and sponsored hundreds of meetings and group events. “We are doing a number of these programs remotely,” noted Library Director Jody Ford.
Although the library is not currently lending physical items, many of its services are available on-line. Storybook readings can be found on the website and on Facebook; poetry and book groups have been meeting through Zoom. And staff members are sharing their experiences with digital study programs like Universal Class and Mango via Facebook. Overdrive and Libby provide e-books and audio books.
Ford said the Library is moving ahead with staff training and renovation projects while closed. A new front circulation desk, that has been in the planning stages for months, continues to move forward. Construction is scheduled to be started on this in the summer.
“We are beginning to think about how we will open the building once the Governor lifts the directive to work from home,” Ford said in her monthly report. The stoppage of work is now set to last until May 15 when Gov. Cuomo will revisit the question.
When the Library does reopen, there will be a Plexiglas shield between the library employees at the front desk and patrons. Markers on the floor will show six-foot distancing while patrons are in the building. The Library continues to research best disinfection protocols for safe handling of library materials when it reopens.
During the closure of the Library, Ford said she has been purchasing e-books rather than physical books. Those books are still available to patrons electronically.
The Board also discussed the financial issues that the Library closure will bring for its budget. The Library revenue from the Fair will be lost and money from various other sources will be considerably diminished, most notably from book fines. The Library is currently revising the expectations from its 2020 budget.
For now, however, the Library’s main base of revenue is secure. In late March the Library received its annual funding of $277,964 in taxpayer money. This tax money largely pays for the Library’s main operating costs, including salaries and utility costs. And $12,500 is anticipated from the town of Rochester, which covers Library memberships for Rochester residents.
“We are on solid ground for now,” Warren noted, citing the taxpayer money and a reserve that the Library keeps for emergency moments such as this.
Ford added, “We do miss seeing the patrons and sharing book ideas and chats. Nonetheless, the library is moving forward to welcome patrons when the library is able to reopen.”