By Matt de Simone
Botetourt County Public Libraries reopened their doors on June 1 to welcome back their patrons, visitors, and friends.
Since last March, COVID-19 restrictions forced the libraries to close their doors while still offering books and media for cardholders to come by and pickup up curbside. Summers are when libraries can use that time to meet in person with their guests and help children out with their summer reading plans. A closed library prevented those face-to-face interactions.
Julie Phillips, Library Director for Botetourt County, is excited to see people returning to the libraries.
“It’s been terrific,” Phillips said in a recent interview. “They’re so excited to see what everything looks like because inside of every branch, we’ve changed something.”
Phillips and her library staff worked hard over the “break” to reorganize books and other media to make them more easily accessible. Some of the libraries have also received makeovers. For example, the Blue Ridge branch features new paint, carpet, and murals in the children’s section painted by Dawn Peterson.
“It’s funny because we had materials-lending going on throughout the entire pandemic,” Phillips added. “You could drop by curbside and pick up stuff, but as soon as we opened the doors—I don’t know if it’s the first-week magic or the need to feel books again—but our circulation has tripled just this week. I think people missed that experience.”
Currently, the libraries are planning outdoor in-person programs for kids on a small scale. “Storytime” will start again in July, with plans to hold most of those events outside. The libraries are also planning their fall programs. The library meeting rooms will remain closed for the time being but will reopen soon.
The reopening couldn’t come at a better time with the Summer Learning Challenge starting for many students in Botetourt County. Last year, for the first time, Botetourt libraries introduced Beanstack, an app that tracks children’s reading and activities. With the libraries now opened fully, the library will offer a hybrid Summer Learning experience this summer featuring the app.
For more information about the Summer Learning Challenge, web.botetourtva.gov/library/slc.