By Saloni Jain

The classic novel, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, recently arrived on my radar with talk of summer reading starting up, and although I don’t plan to read it anytime soon, I’m excited to start reading again in general. It’s been a minute since I last visited the library – five months, to be exact – and I haven’t leisurely read a book in a while.

Since I finally have the time to do so, I’m happy to hear that the EG Free Library is planning to reopen. Although it won’t be the same, the small library staff is working hard to bring back a sense of much-needed “normalcy” with their soft opening this week.

The library has only the upstairs floor open. In addition to the downstairs area being closed, bathrooms and the back room with newspapers and magazines, will also be closed to the public. To prevent the spread of the virus, no chairs, tables, and computers will be available to patrons. Unfortunately, this means that the library can no longer be a hangout or meetup place anymore; patrons can only come in to check out books.

Now, you may be wondering: how am I supposed to get the full experience of the library and check out books in the closed off areas? Well, despite all these restrictions, the library staff has come up with creative ways to compensate for the lost facilities.

Instead of asking librarians for book suggestions, the staff has prepared lists of books in a variety of genres, which are easily accessible near the front entrance. And even though the downstairs floor is closed, research librarian Diane Hogan said she’ll be at the information desk ready to fetch any book that might be in the closed areas. 

Norbert is practicing social distancing and following the new floor arrows in place at the library.

Here’s what a typical library experience might look like: patrons will enter through the Young Adult Section, where they will find books by popular authors and the normal YA section. The normal YA section has also been modified to include a children’s corner full of children’s books, arts and crafts books, and summer reading books. 

Local traveling books will be placed on top of the fireplace for those who want to find adventure in their backyards. Patrons can then venture out to the section of audiobooks and movies, though social distancing must be practiced, and thus, only one person can be in an aisle for a certain amount of time. To check out books, the staff has set up a self-checkout area: patrons scan their library card, scan the books they want (limit of 15 books per card), and then leave. 

As for returning books, Hogan says to not worry about it. With a limited staff, the library has fallen a bit behind with getting books back on the shelves, so getting the books back to the library at a specific time shouldn’t be a concern. Patrons won’t be charged fines for returning a book a little late.

Outside the library, kids can also participate in the EG Free Library “Imagine Your Story” Summer Challenge, which ends Aug. 14. This challenge allows kids to complete any 5 of the 25 activities to earn a certificate and a free book. From reading a book of poetry to writing a short story to doing a science experiment, the activities cover a wide variety of interests. For each completed activity, kids can earn a ticket to enter either a weekly raffle or a raffle to win a grand prize gift card. To complete the challenge online, click here.

Although the library certainly won’t look the same, it’s definitely a step closer to bringing the EG reading community back together – a step towards “normalcy.”

Reporter Saloni Jain is a junior at East Greenwich High School.

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