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January 17, 2021

Free Library of Philadelphia to expand in-person services after two-month shutdown

Branch locations have been closed since November due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases

Libraries Free Library of Philadelphia
free library philadelphia services.png Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

In-person services will resume at 20 Free Library of Philadelphia locations across the city this week.

Starting on Tuesday, many Free Library of Philadelphia locations will reopen to the public after being closed for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city's public library system will begin expanding in-person services at 20 branches across Philly this week, with more locations restarting in-building operations in the near future, the organization announced.

On-location services such as borrowing and returning materials, as well as access to computers, internet, printing and reference desk services will resume on Tuesday.

Some library locations will require an appointment for materials to be picked up. Many branches will allow patrons to checkout materials with limited interaction or time spent indoors.

Holds can be placed on items both online or in person. Customers will be notified when their holds are ready to be picked up at library locations that offer this service. 

When customers begin returning to Free Library locations this week, they will be mandated to follow a number of COVID-19 health and safety protocols to protect themselves and staff.

Decals have been placed on floors to enforce at least six feet of social distancing across library branches. Sanitation stations and plexiglass barriers have been installed, capacity limits have been implemented, and all customers must wear face masks.

Returned materials to a Free Library location are quarantined for seven days in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Once each item clears quarantine, it is marked as returned.

The Free Library has a database of available services and branch locations that will be resuming in-building operations this week.

“The Free Library is an important resource for our communities, and our staff has worked tirelessly to ensure those resources are available in a safe setting during the pandemic,” Interim Director Leslie Walker said. 

“Services may look different than our patrons are used to, but the Library and its staff are here to help connect Philadelphians to the information they need.”

All Free Library locations were forced to shut down in November as part of a new wave of coronavirus restrictions implemented by the city.

In the meantime, the Free Library has continued to provide virtual services, contact-free materials pickup and phone reference. The Free Library’s call center has remained available to patrons five days a week.

This past August, the Free Library began offering limited in-person services at locations across the city through a multi-phase process. 

The city’s public library system expanded its services in September to include more in-building offerings at approximately half of its locations. 

Those services included computer and printer usage, internet access, grab-and-go holds pickup, and face-to-face assistance from library staff. All visits were limited to 30 minutes.

Numerous Free Library branches and hot spots across the city have been shut down since last March when the public health crisis began. But many programs and events have continued virtually.

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