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New York City bookworms can rejoice as Gotham’s three public library systems will return to almost full service this month, starting with a bunch of branches reopening Tuesday.
The New York Public Library will open nearly all its outposts on July 6, including the iconic Rose Main Reading Room at its Main Branch on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, lending honchos announced.
“We know how important public libraries are to New Yorkers and to the reawakening and recovery of our great city,” said NYPL President Anthony Marx in a statement Monday. “We, like all New Yorkers, have been eagerly moving toward the moment we can more fully restore a familiar, near pre-pandemic service model throughout the system, and are so excited that —thanks to the vaccination progress — that moment is now.”
NYPL — which operates stacks in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island — along with the Brooklyn and Queens public library systems, will start resuming full in-person service in the coming weeks, lifting most COVID-19 restrictions on browsing, computer use, and programming.
The libraries closed their doors to patrons at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, pivoting to all-remote services, before slowly phasing back in with grab-and-go borrowing starting in July of that year.
As more and more people in the Five Boroughs are rolling up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines and infection rates are low, the systems are starting back up.
In Manhattan, the beloved Rose Main Reading Room on 42nd Street will open to those looking to study, use computers, or just have a space for thought, while people who just want to view the landmarked space will have to book a library-led tour.
The system’s recently-renovated central circulating branch at 40th Street and Fifth Avenue will allow visitors to its rooftop for free, but on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Unlimited browsing, desktop computer use, laptop loan, and open seating will also come back to almost all branches, and the systems will continue some virtual programming and restart in-person happenings, including some outdoors during the summer. Masks remain mandatory at all NYPL branches.
The exception is 14 branches that will still stay closed for now, nine of which are under construction or in need of repairs: Hunts Point and Melrose in the Bronx; Fort Washington, Grand Central, Hamilton Fish, Jefferson Market, and Terence Cardinal Cooke–Cathedral in Manhattan; and Port Richmond and Charleston in Staten Island.
The city is currently using five additional locations for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, which the library wants to open as soon as possible this month, including Riverdale, Mariners Harbor, St. Agnes, Dongan Hills, and Hamilton Grange.
As has been the case for the whole pandemic, the three systems are still waiving overdue fines through at least September, library leaders said.
In Brooklyn, the last remaining batch of branches opened their first floors between June 28-July 2. By July 17, patrons will be able to access all building floors for browsing and seating, including the Central Branch’s brand new Business and Career Center. Masks are also required at all BPL branches.
“Through the pandemic, Brooklyn Public Library continued to show up for our patrons online, outdoors, and in the lobbies of our branches,” said Linda Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Brooklyn Public Library. “Once again, public libraries, the most democratic spaces in our society, will be filled with people reading and connecting with one another.”
Queens Public Library will lift all COVID-related capacity and browsing limits starting Tuesday, July 6, and masks will be optional for staff and patrons who are fully vaccinated, while still required for those who haven’t gotten their shot.
Almost all locations will be open by Monday, July 12, except for 10 branches: Court Square, Flushing, Glendale, Ozone Park, Pomonok, Queens Village, Queensbridge Tech Lab, South Jamaica, Steinway, and Woodhaven.
“We have made many strides since COVID-19 forced the temporary closure of our buildings to the public 15 months ago, and as circumstances around infections shifted during that period, so did we, putting the health and safety of our customers and staff above all else,” said QPL president and CEO Dennis Walcott. “In light of the progress we — as a community, as a city, as a state — have worked so hard to achieve, we can now finally lift many of our restrictions for staff and the public and introduce a model of service that brings us closer to pre-pandemic levels.