By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore Public Library has reopened to the public, although it doesn’t look exactly the same as it did when it shut down about six weeks ago.
The changes, mandated by Gov. Kay Ivey’s executive order, are minor, though, considering the value of the facility to students and others who seek its services.
“I’m glad we’re back; the public needs us,” APL Director Hope Lassiter said. “We opened last Friday (May 1), but it’s a limited opening.”
All library programs are currently on hold, she said. The “limited” aspects of the reopening are the same as those faced by any commercial or private enterprise as the state, nation and world continue to battle the spread of COVID-19.
Only 10 people (excluding library staff) will be allowed inside the library at a time, and the six-feet distancing rule will be enforced. To help meet that requirement, only five computers, each spaced six feet apart, are available to the public, and usage of those machines is limited to 30 minutes per person.
Newspapers and magazines will not be available; public seating areas have been closed, and children will not be allowed to roam freely. Also, for those who want to go a step farther in reducing the risk of coronavirus exposure, curbside drop-off and pickup is available. Those who wish to avail themselves of those services should call 368-5234 in advance to make arrangements.
Also inside the local library, the Escambia County Library System’s Books by Mail program has also resumed. The service is free, and books — ranging from those geared to 3-year-old children, to large-print versions for older residents who might have sight problems — are readily available.
Geri Albritton, who runs the program with assistant Ansleigh Maholovich, said the program, which also serves Brewton and Flomaton, operates out of Atmore under an agreement with city officials.
“We’re sort of the Bookmobile of the 1990s,” Albritton explained. “Every school kid gets a flyer explaining the program. They can get four books at a time, and we send them by mail to their home, free of charge. The library foots the bill.”
She pointed out, too, that the library can hook patrons up — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — with a wide variety of e-books and e-zines [electronic magazines] geared to most any taste.
“We have upward of 40,000 titles available,” she said. “We’ve got magazines and lots and lots of books. The person has to be approved to get started, but it’s just a matter of going to escambiacountylibrary.com and following the links. It only takes a couple of clicks.”
Lassiter said she hoped that a degree of normalcy would soon replace the cautious, coronavirus-induced pace at which the world is currently moving. The local library could see other changes, depending on the course the virus takes in the coming weeks.
“We’re just playing it by ear,” she said. “There might be amendments later. Right now, our Summer Reading Program is up in the air. When we get the programs started again, there will be new guidelines for all of them.”
The library is open from 8 a.m. until 4:50 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. until 12:50 p.m. on Saturday.