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Ask Us: When will new library open in Cleveland?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

CLEVELAND — For the time being, the Rowan Public Library West Branch will remain closed to the public.

In response to a reader question about the status of the facility, Rowan Public Library Director Melissa Oleen said COVID-19 has put a damper on the opening of the West Branch. The facility is complete and work is currently underway to move in furnishings and collections, but it can’t yet open its doors.

“We are looking at a minimum of three months before the public could be allowed entry into Rowan Public Library West Branch,” Oleen said. “This is based on current and predicted pandemic conditions which have impacted RPL staffing and operations, manufacturers of library furnishings and county budgets and hiring.”

Oleen said work is underway to move in shelving and furniture, among other things. But library shelving for a project like the West Branch must be custom-built.

“It will take eight to 10 weeks for RPL-West to receive its shelving after the manufacturer receives the order,” she said. “This may take longer due to pandemic conditions.”

The library also will need to hire staff for its West Branch, and county government is still under a hiring freeze. Another barrier, all Rowan Public Library facilities are not allowing public entry. Until those two things change, the opening of the branch will, unfortunately, be delayed, she said.

The library is a years-long project that started after Cleveland and Woodleaf elementary schools were combined into West Rowan Elementary, leaving the old Cleveland school without a tenant. Rowan County government, with an assist from private fundraising, moved to turn the school’s former auditorium and media center into a library.

County officials had initially hoped to have a grand opening in May.

Once open, the West Branch will offer wireless printing, print books, computer labs for adults and children, a children’s area and special programming. There will be free Wi-Fi access on the grounds and broadband internet in the library.

Pre-pandemic plans were for the library to be open 40 hours per week, including on Sundays, when other branches are closed, and to have five staff members, a professional librarian with a master’s degree, a full-time branch associate, two part-time associates and a part-time page.

Changes to services at Rowan Public Library facilities as a result of COVID-19 are as follows:

• All branches have hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the buildings are not open to the public.

• Instead of coming into the library, materials are available for checkout through curbside pickup, which takes place outside of library entrances with no contact between staff and patrons.

• Curbside pickup is by appointment Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays.

• Items must be placed on hold in advance for curbside pickup by calling 980-432-8670 or your branch of choice. In-person requests cannot be accommodated via curbside pickup.

• Materials can be returned to any library location using designated book drops.

• Free wireless internet is available in the library parking lots.

• Digital services, including ebooks and audio materials are still accessible 24/7.

• Overdue fines are temporarily suspended

• Patrons may check out up to 50 physical items on their accounts. Up to 30 of these can be DVDs. This service modification is through Aug. 31.

For a full list of changes at Rowan Public Library, visit rowancountync.gov/1564/Service-Modifications. The central phone number for Rowan Public Library is 980-432-8670.

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