A small line of people waited outside the Salem Public Library on Tuesday morning, eager to walk through the doors after a nearly 16-month closure. Full library services won’t resume until they return to the newly renovated building next to City Hall in September, but the Broadway location is now open during regular hours.
Lessie Foster, 8, watches the manga on day one of the Salem Public Library open to the public on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
It wasn’t quite a sold-out concert or the midnight premiere of a new Star Wars blockbuster.
But the reopening of the Salem Public Library drew its own crowd on Tuesday morning, with around 10 people lined up outside before a 10 a.m. opening, eager to resume browsing.
“It’s fantastic, it’s been a long wait,” said Marjorie Ferry, a resident of West Salem.
Harry Ahn, a teacher at Blanchet Catholic School, said he visited the library once or twice a week before Covid.
Like many repeat customers who returned on Tuesday, Ahn said he used the library’s curbside service to collect and return the books during the shutdown. But exploring the shelves, discovering new books, and finding things that might interest his students doesn’t work well virtually.
“It’s kind of a landmark for me,” he said as the doors opened. Salem’s main library resumed normal hours at its temporary location on Broadway Avenue on Tuesday, with patrons free to flip through the books on the shelves and pick up outlets. Three computers are available for indoor use, although slots are limited to half an hour.
Marjorie Ferry collects her catch on the first day the Salem Public Library opens to the public on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
Other library offerings, such as in-person events, will not resume until the library returns to its regular, newly renovated location next to City Hall. This is expected to happen during the last two weeks of August, with the renovated library opening on September 1.
The western branch of the library in Salem will remain closed until September.
Many shoppers gathered near the new books section on Tuesday morning, marking off shelves with backs bearing release dates in 2020 and 2021. Some tried to find books that were on hold weeks or months ago. .
New books on display on day one of the Salem Public Library open to the public on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
Dezerae Schworak stood by the shelves of children’s graphic novels as his 8-year-old son Lessie Foster picked out several Pokémon books. Her two older daughters were grazing nearby.
“We used to come all the time so it was a big change,” Schworak said of the closure.
The take-out activity kits and books collected via curbside pickup helped her kids stay busy, she said, but they were “super excited, ready to go” when the reopening was announced. .
Amorette Drexler said that as soon as she found out about the library reopening, she made plans with her children.
“We said, ‘OK, Tuesday we are at it, 10 am,’ she said. Drexler said they don’t know if the library has capacity rules in place (it doesn’t). They didn’t want to risk missing their first chance to rake the shelves, she said.
The family visited the library together every week before the pandemic, biking, checking books and reading them at the nearby Broadway Commons.
Drexler arrived on Tuesday with two of his own children and a friend’s daughter, who grabbed a stack of teenage novels from a table.
Dezerae Schworak, right, and son Lessie Foster look at books on the first day of the Salem Public Library open to the public on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
Customers who weren’t in line on day one don’t yet need to worry about stacks of books they may have viewed last March when Salem closed.
City librarian Sarah Strahl said deadlines would be extended again at least until they return to the library’s main branch. Overdue fines accumulated prior to return will be forgiven, she said, and that grace period could be extended.
Strahl beamed as he watched the library staff push carts between the shelves and the children clamoring for books. She said she wasn’t sure what to expect on Tuesday, but had hoped Salem residents would line up to enter.
“It’s nice to see your hopes come true,” she said.
Harry Ahn browses new books on the first day of the Salem Public Library open to the public on Tuesday July 6, 2021 (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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