A social gathering place offering hundreds of programs and services to the public, the Solon Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library had embraced an unbelievably challenging year, branch manager Julie Liedtke said last week.
“It’s been an interesting time and the library is adapting and doing what we can to provide resources and services to the community,” she said.
Along with the rest of the nation, the Cuyahoga County Public Library closed its branches in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Solon branch on Portz Parkway closed completely until June.
Despite its closure, the branch continued to connect to its patrons as best it could, Ms. Liedtke said.
Online resources were available through the months of April and May, giving patrons the ability to send in questions or request materials.
In June, although they came back to the building, it was behind closed doors, Ms. Liedtke explained, noting that the Solon branch was one of just two in the entire library system which offered a curbside service, which is still ongoing.
In July the library branch was able to re-open fully, and now, since September, are open seven days a week. But it looks quite different, she noted.
“People can come in, but it is with the utmost safety measures in place,” she continued. The library follows the guidelines of the governor as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The branch is cleaned constantly because the library has so many high-touch areas, she said.
People have begun returning to the Solon branch, she said, and using the space for a variety of things.
“It was especially important to be open for students and job seekers and people who needed the Wi-Fi access and computers,” she said.
Furniture has been re-arranged and computers spaced out, she said.
The curbside service is extremely popular and appreciated by many, she added.
Pre-pandemic, the library was a daily gathering place and home to so many functions, hundreds of programs and events, Ms. Liedtke said. “Then all of a sudden COVID-19 just turned it on its head.”
The in-person programming, including the variety of story times for children and families, as well as group book discussions, remains the missing piece right now,” she said.
“The library has been open and providing resources that people have come to depend on, but social gatherings are on hold,” she said. “We are finding other ways to still be able to engage and let the community engage with one another.
“As with most places, we have moved to virtual programs.”
While the library system has many virtual events in place, there are a couple exceptions, such as classes on citizenship, for example.
There are also some small computer classes.
The library website contains all the offerings at cuyahogalibrary.org.
“The new mantra is, as your needs change, we change,” she said. “The library continues to adapt and move along with whatever is happening in the community.
“We would love to be able to go back to the way it was but unfortunately for the foreseeable future,” it will remain as is.
“It’s been an interesting balancing act,” she said.
Feedback is positive despite the challenges. Now, people can come in and know “they are in a cared for and safe space that provides services.”
The Solon branch remains a popular destination for those seeking passports as well as one of the few branches partnering with PC for Kids.
Ms. Liedtke added that the library wished to express its sincere gratitude to voters who passed Issue 70 on Nov. 3, a 1-mill continuing levy that will generate $18 million for the countywide library system.
“A big thank you to all,” she said.