Fort Frances Public Library getting back into the swing of things

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

After another considerable lockdown period, the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre (FFPLTC) has reopened and is excited to welcome patrons back through the doors.

Following the Ontario government’s move to Step Three of the provincial reopening plan, the library has opened in a limited capacity from Tuesday to Thursday each week, allowing patrons to come back in and access books, movies and more that the library has to offer. FFPLTC CEO Joan MacLean shared that she and her staff are thrilled to be able to open the doors to patrons again now that lockdown measures are easing.

“We are so happy to have everybody back in,” she said.

The library never stopped working during the pandemic, allowing patrons to access books through curbside pickup and dropoff, which McLean said will unfortunately be coming to an end as the library gets back into the swing of things.

“A lot of the patrons got really used to [curbside delivery],” MacLean said.

“Unfortunately it’s just not something that we will be able to sustain, so we will be tailing off as time goes by.”

The return to in-person activities hasn’t been without complications. MacLean noted the reduced hours at the library are due in part to some troubles they’ve been having with their air conditioning system, which led to a few days during last month’s heatwave that caused the entire building to shut down, with staff sent home to keep them, and patrons, safe from the heat. Going forward, those issues could still see the limited hours disrupted.

“We have some air conditioning problems, and I don’t want to make promises to the town that I can’t keep in the end. If it isn’t in fact fixed and I have to send staff home, then we’ll have to suddenly close. We’re going to stick to what we’ve got for now, and that is Tuesdays, Thursdays 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Wednesdays 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. We are eager to open as much as we can and I also have some staff members off on leave, so we have some holes that need to be filled as well.”

Still, even with AC problems and staff leaves to work around, MacLean said it makes a big difference to be open to the public again and have visitors and patrons return to roaming the stacks or participating in other library activities.

“It’s so good,” she said.

“When there are people outside my office and they’re patrons and looking for books, we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing. Libraries are for and about people so we are absolutely very excited to open the doors again.”

Now that the library is indeed beginning their ramping up of offerings and programs, MacLean said the plan will include opening the library for more hours each week, and a return to normal programming, some of which was detailed by program coordinators in a previous piece in the Fort Frances Times. There are still some health and safety measures that will come into play, but MacLean said she’s cautiously optimistic that numbers in the region will continue to stay low.

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“We have to be cautious with what the numbers are,” she said of safety plans at the library, which include capacity limitations.

“We’re doing so well in Ontario, but we’ll just have to play it by ear, as we have been since COVID began.”

MacLean reiterated that library staff are excited to have patrons in the building once more, and they are working hard bring current and future offerings back to the level the public expects of their library while making sure to take care of themselves as well.

“Me and all of the staff are very eager for a return to normal,” MacLean said. “We are doing the best we can to expand on what we’re offering.”

Following the Times’ interview with MacLean, the FFPLTC announced on its Facebook page that beginning Monday, August 9, they would additionally be open on Mondays from 10 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., in addition to the previously mentioned hours of operation.