Library fans laud full reopenings

Diane Garcia, of the Village of Alhambra, enjoys perusing books Tuesday at The Villages Public Library at Belvedere. Sumter County libraries returned to full operations Monday.

Library patrons are happy now that the Sumter County Library System fully reopened. “I love it, love it!” said Sally Visci, of the Village of Caroline, as she stuffed some books she checked out into a canvas tote bag Tuesday. “They are always so courteous and so prompt. You can put books on hold and pick them up. I currently have eight books on hold.”

Sumter libraries returned to full operations Monday in accordance with the Re-Open Florida Task Force Report for Phase 3, the county announced Monday. Here are three things to know:

Services Up and Running

The county asks customers to continue following CDC guidelines for their protection when visiting library branches. A complete list of all library resources is available at SumterPublicLibrary.org, or by calling 352-689-4567 or emailing Reference@SumterLibrary.org. “A lot of our other services will be available, like faxing and printing,” said Leslie Smith, administrative services manager. Sumter County residents may apply for a new library card online. Jerry Bosley, of the Village of Chatham, said he recently got a library card and has been reading more since the pandemic began. “I just got books three or four days ago. I’m back for more,” he said as he stacked some in his arms. “Four ought to hold me for a while.”

Villages Group Adapting to Needs

The Friends of The Villages Library closed its book rooms selling used books at both the Belvedere and Pinellas Plaza branches in March. Now that the libraries are fully reopened, the group’s president, Marilyn Ivison, said her book room managers are polling volunteers to find out who is available and willing to staff the book rooms. “Members will be excited to get back to our book rooms and get more books,” she said. “And we are seriously missing the interaction with all our book lovers.” The libraries’ community rooms will remain closed through Oct. 31, as was decided “a couple of weeks ago.”  Ivison said she anticipates the book rooms will reopen at the same time as community meeting rooms in November with limited hours because of limited volunteers, some of whom are currently out of state. “Opening our rooms is completely dependent on having the volunteers to reopen,” she said. “All of our volunteers fall into the ‘Vulnerable Population’ category simply because we all are 65 or older. Most of us are 70, or even 80 and older.” Distancing also is difficult in the book rooms, which Ivison described as cozy, unlike the more spacious libraries. “When people weren’t worried about getting sick, people find it fun to get in there and rub elbows and talk about books,” she said.

Neighboring Libraries Also Have Options

The Marion County Public Library System is also open, and curbside pick-up service remains available. Lake County Library System still has limited reopening and curbside service available. All books and other library items must be returned to avoid late fees.

Staff writer Dayna Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or dayna.straehley@thevillagesmedia.com.