Turning a Page on the Pandemic | Trumansburg

In the booklet “2011 A Year to Celebrate” written by Kathy Bond, she describes the beginning of the Ulysses Philomathic Library (UPL) from its shaky start in 1811. Abner Treman decided to start a lending library and the first organizational meeting was held in Snell’s Tavern. A Board of Trustees was established and Herman Camp became the first librarian. His store on the corner of Union and Main housed the library which contained 232 books, a large quantity for that time. However, the library closed in 1839 and all of the books were sold. 

In the early 1900s, two attempts were made to resurrect the library. First, the school library was opened to the public, but the building burned down and with it all of the books. Next, The Home Bureau decided to maintain a small library, but it too burned to the ground. In 1934, community members donated $1 each and formed the Library Association. The Masonic Building leased space for the new library and residents and Cornell University donated over 3,000 books. Jennie Updike became the UPL librarian and, by 1960, the library could boast over 10,000 volumes. It soon became evident that a larger space was needed.

In 1997, a building site at 74 East Main Street was purchased, an architect hired, a contractor selected, and construction begun on the current 7,900 square foot building. A groundbreaking celebration was held on June 17, 2000 with the library officially dedicated on October 13, 2001. UPL has since become a vital component of the Trumansburg community.

Library Director Ksana Broadwell works with Librarian Clay Chiment. Early in 2020, UPL was hosting different activities for adults, teens, and children while supporting a very healthy monthly book checkout. That all changed in March. “In the “Before Times,” we had about 6,000 checkouts a month. Now we are doing half of that,” said Broadwell. “The President of the Board, Steven Knapp, and I decided, for safety’s sake, to close the library, but we didn’t know at the time how long that would be. If the school closed down, so would the library. It was an awful heartbreaking situation. We stayed open the Saturday after school closed. It was kind of a “Black Friday” sale on books and was very busy.”

Broadwell was not surprised that libraries were considered non-essential. She had a huge concern because libraries can be a gathering place and was wary of the volunteers being around so many people. UPL was also a hot destination for children after school and she had to be careful. After closing, staff came into the library for a week to decide how to proceed until the shut-down order came from the state and then the building closed for good. UPL remained closed for two and a half months and the outside book deposits were sealed.

Grab-and-Go and curbside pick-up was finally established in June. People could call the library or go to the website and order books. Four times a week, Broadwell or Clay would be on hand for 3 hours to give out books which were wrapped and checked out ahead of pick-up. The book deposits were again opened for returned books. Once books were returned, they were quarantined for 4 days and then sanitized before being either placed on the shelves or sent back to other libraries.

Some activities were restarted. A Do-It-Yourself digital story time was available with celebrities and librarians reading books. A Library Book Club was held on Zoom once a month. Chiment started Science at Home to provide enrichment for home-schooled families. The Dungeons & Dragons Club for teens resumed with 10 participants instead of 15. Story Walks were created downtown and at the Nature Preserve Trail off Salo Drive. Tech Cart hours for printing, copying, and faxing happened again. The Summer Reading Program was held virtually with online reading tracking and take-home kits. Unfortunately, Community Watercolor, Chair Yoga, Teen MakerSpace, Spinknitters, Read to Leo, Storytime and Craft, Anime, Lego Build, and Game Night could not meet.

COVID-19 protocols are in place. Everyone wears a mask. Sanitizer is available and used liberally. Bathrooms are unavailable to the public. The layout has been modified to allow staff to social distance. The casual reading space was repurposed into the book quarantine area. Before shutdown, plans were in place to replace the HVAC system. That is now under construction and, once complete, the cleaner air will allow patrons back inside the library. Cleaning protocols are in place and the regular cleaners come twice a week to do additional disinfecting. “I want to get the volume back as soon as possible because I really miss the volunteers and patrons,” Broadwell remarked. “It is hard limiting so many people from entering the library. Clay and I come in daily and one staff member works from home. We have to limit the number of people in the building to a total of 8 per day. One challenge has been to redesign the hold/pick-up which is now an 8-point process. The open lobby has been an improvement, but we spend extra time safely checking out books and wrapping them for privacy. We now lend about 3,000 books a month which is half of what we used to do. Online circulation has doubled and we have happy patrons who pick up their books in the lobby. Window browsing has gone well too.”

Some positives have been that the library card registration online, especially for e-book accounts, has increased. Libby is the main e-book reader and can be accessed by anyone for any device. People also seem to love the Grab-and-Go rather than waiting at the counter to take out books. Homeschool curriculum guides and coloring sheets are also available in the lobby. Patrons have discovered e-books and digital audiobooks too. DVD borrowing has declined, however, because people can no longer come inside to browse. Book deliveries from other libraries in the system now are three days a week instead of five and books are quarantined for three days before patrons can pick them up. When books are returned, they are placed in dated boxes in the quarantine area where they remain for three days. 

Looking ahead, the Story Walks were so popular that another is planned for downtown starting at UPL and ending at Homespun. There will be 12 locations telling the story of “The Mitten.” In June, Storytime will be held twice a month. There will be a newsletter in the spring. Another spring book sale will be held. Local author Zoom events are planned. Science at Home was well received and Clay has added three more months of activities. Plans are in the works for getting an arts & crafts program going for adults. In 2021, more Pop-Up programing is planned after the HVAC construction is complete. A Book Bike is contemplated for spring. An adult riding a tricycle will carry books to the Farmers’ Market including activities to go with each story.

Lobby hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. “We are still here!” declared Broadwell smiling. “Please, call us at 387-5623. We will figure it out. We continue to reach out to meet your needs. UPL is always open at trumansburglibrary.org.”

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