Libraries across Massachusetts are starting to reopen their doors to the public as the state relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions. But the Nantucket Atheneum is among those libraries that remains closed and is not quite ready to allow people back inside for browsing and other in-person activities. A formal announcement on the Atheneum’s reopening plan is expected “in the “coming weeks” and visitors will be required to wear masks and physically distance when it happens.

Executive director Ann Scott told the Current this week that the Atheneum will be moving forward with plans for “express browsing and printing” while continuing to offer curbside checkout of books, grab-and-go crafts, its online programming, and some outdoor performances for children and adults. She added that express browsing will likely be in 20 to 30 minute time segments.

In early March, the state released guidelines and safety checklists to allow libraries to safely reopen. On April 30, libraries across Massachusetts were informed that the state was lifting its sector specific COVID-19 guidelines for libraries, effective May 1, including the requirement to quarantine library materials and certain cleaning protocols.

Across Massachusetts, it’s a mixed bag for public libraries – some open, some closed, and others somewhere in between. The city of Worcester reopened its public libraries for browsing and other services last week, but the Boston Public Library remains closed for most in-person services. Framingham opened its two library buildings back on April 5. Fitchburg Public Library reopened May 10 with occupancy limits and other safety measures, while the Swampscott Public Library opened April 26 for browsing by appointment.

On Cape Cod, the Sturgis Library in Barnstable is open for in-person browsing, as is the Falmouth Public Library system. The Hyannis Public Library is allowing limited in-person browsing and the Cotuit Library is fully open, while others like the Snow Library in Orleans and the Truro Public Library are offering curbside pickup only. Meanwhile in western Massachusetts, libraries in Greenfield, West Springfield, Westfield, Pittsfield and South Hadley have reopened on various levels, with some allowing browsing by appointment.

Scott compared the Atheneum to the libraries on Martha’s Vineyard, which also remain closed for in-person browsing.

“The Atheneum has taken every step to ensure that we are following the same commitment to a reopening plan as our friends in the Martha’s Vineyard island library system,” Scott said.

The Atheneum closed its doors to the public on March 14, 2020, as the pandemic set in. Since then, Scott said the Atheneum has focused on establishing procedures to ensure its employees and the public will be protected inside the library when it reopens. The library has installed iWave needlepoint bipolar ionization technology in its HVAC system to neutralize viruses, bacteria, mold and other particulates.

And while the doors were closed, the Atheneum has adapted in many ways to provide services, programming and experiences for island residents through the pandemic. With its online browsing and curbside pickup option, the Atheneum individually wrapped the books for its users, making children and even some adults feel as if they were opening a present from the library. In addition to curbside pick-up, the Atheneum has offered a full slate of virtual programming and classes that has allowed not only Nantucketers, but people from all over the country and the world to participate. Last week, the Atheneum announced its annual Dance Festival is returning in 2021 with an outdoor stage at Children’s Beach. The 14th edition of the Dance Festival is scheduled for July 22, 23, and 24.

Scott added that islanders should keep a close eye on the Atheneum’s social media pages, where the reopening announcement will be released.

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