The Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library is working in phase two of a multi-phased reopening plan. Phase two includes no-touch curbside delivery services and limited outdoor computing and printing services.

The Northwest Georgia Regional Library System closed on March 12 and switched to an online and fully remote Summer Reading Program. I’m certain you will join me in congratulating our staff members and branch library management teams for shifting into the virtual realm almost instantaneously, well, actually overnight and during the next two days.

The virtual programming and social media offerings and content generated by library teams in Dalton, Calhoun and Chatsworth are staggering as I look back upon it. I watched as these library staff members were able to shift a well-planned, face-to-face summer reading program to a new platform, and they did so in collaboration with public libraries across the state and the nation. They kept children and parents reading and engaged this summer, and I am in awe of the work they did and the contribution they made to our community.

The last time I was responsible for the newspaper update, we had just begun the plan for our no-touch curbside services at our Dalton headquarters branch. We have now extended curbside service to our Calhoun library branch and reopened the book returns at the Dalton branch. We are making progress each day, and you will begin to see new services offered outside our library buildings until such time as we can safely welcome you back inside to browse. The library staff members at each branch are reporting daily to work as per manager scheduling and following the most recent executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp.

In Dalton, you will see our blue umbrellas and seating area are now being used for laptop checkout. At this makeshift computing area, you can check out or go to www.ngrl.org to place a curbside service request. The offerings available at this time are printing and no-touch print pickup and free books browsing. Watch for new offerings this fall.

In Calhoun, you will see the same services in a slightly different configuration. Calhoun has a huge patio space, whereas Dalton has a large lawn area. The creative Calhoun staffers will be introducing unique curbside elements as we move forward.

In Chatsworth, we are putting books on the shelves from off-site storage areas onto the newly powder-coated shelving. As soon as we complete that work, we will begin curb service in Chatsworth. We appreciate Murray County and the city of Chatsworth and city of Eton’s library users’ patience, as we have put moving on hold to address other issues this summer.

Each branch is being fitted with protection panels at all service counters so that you will be able to conduct library business comfortably in the future. The library board chairs and I continue to monitor state library recommendations and follow Gov. Kemp’s executive order, White House and CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for a responsible and safe resumption of service.

I am sure that readers wonder why some area libraries are open to the public and some remain in the more conservative phase two mode. According to the public health data, Gordon, Murray and Whitfield counties’ COVID-19 activity indicates that a modified and measured reopening plan is the safest way to move ahead for the community, the library users and the library staff. I monitor the virus activity data daily, and I pray each day that our staff members, our library users, board members and community partners and friends are coping with this unusual circumstance with grace and continued good health.

I learned this week of colleagues who have experienced the deaths of family members due to this virus, and I’ve been heartened by the outpouring of encouraging, heartfelt support shared amongst that group. I, like many of you, have nervously awaited staff member testing results while adhering to the required administrative plan in the event of library staff exposure to COVID-19. The testing-based and the symptom-based Safe to Work Decision Trees are decorating my office along with our Pandemic Taskforce Group’s meeting agenda and printed documents. All this to say, we are hanging in there, and we hope you are, too.

I wish you all good health, and thank you for your support.

Happy reading.

Darla Chambliss is the director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System.

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