Letters from the Director
Dear Brookline Community Members:
Summer is winding down, and I am sorry to report, COVID is winding back up. Although we are nowhere near the peaks we saw last winter, the whole country is trending in the wrong direction, just as we prepare to head back inside in group settings.
We have had many inquiries from the public regarding what services at the library will look like in September. The Board of Trustees and I have watched with growing alarm as outbreaks continue to spring up in schools in the South, where students have already returned to the classrooms. We worry, too, about the conclusion of summer travels, the return of college students, and the relaxation of regulations almost everywhere.
This letter is especially important to our families whose children spend extended periods of time in the libraries after school. We are not going to be able to offer normal services in September. The list below is a preliminary guide to what the libraries in Brookline will, and will not, be able to offer this fall:
- All programming will be virtual.
- All staff and visitors must wear a face covering, defined here, when inside any library, including in study rooms, restrooms, etc. The face covering must cover the mouth and nose completely at all times. Everyone age 2 and up must comply.
- Capacity limits will be implemented. Throughout the summer, our slowest season, we saw an average of 1600 visitors per day across our three locations. We used CARES Act money to purchase density monitors for all locations so we can monitor how many folks are in the buildings/rooms. We have not set the numbers firmly yet, but we will not be able to accommodate full capacity, and this will have a noticeable impact on rooms which serve youth, particularly between 2:30-5:30. This will mean that at times, some guests will not be able to enter the library and families should not plan on the Library being a standard part of their after school care plan.
- Community rooms will remain unavailable for bookings. At this time, the Library has been advised to keep staff as separate as possible for break time, similar to what children are doing in the schools. In order to follow that safety advice, we must continue to use the community rooms as break rooms.
- Eating and drinking will be prohibited at the library. Patrons will be allowed to briefly raise their masks to take a sip of water as necessary, but we will not be able to offer the opportunity for leisurely sipping and snacking.
- Social distancing will be requested. We will have markings in front of all service desks to indicate adequate spacing. We will ask folks to remain at least 6’ apart. This will require limiting the number of computers we have available.
- Children and families will be asked to enter the Brookline Village location through our newly opened Garden entrance, behind the monument near School St.
- Please refresh your knowledge of our Unattended Child Policy. Children who have not yet reached their 9th birthdays may not be in the library without a caretaker who is 13 years old or older.
Believe it or not, there are some cool upsides on offer:
- At the Brookline Village location, construction has begun on a lovely new Children’s Garden. It will be fenced, with a reading area for future story times. There will be benches and tables, and an assortment of comfy Adirondack chairs. We hope to have some toys and climbing structures out in September.
- We will add new picnic tables outside all three locations. They will be stationed within range of our wifi, and patrons can borrow laptops to take outside and enjoy!
- We will offer beepers when we reach capacity, so you can stay on property until we have space inside. We hope this takes some of the anxiety out of worrying about getting in when it is your turn.
- There will be a magnificent new bench installed at Coolidge Corner. The bench is organically shaped, and evokes the midcentury architecture of the building.
- We have added to our collection of loanable technology, so it will be easier than ever to get a laptop, iPad, or other gadget.
- In September, the Coolidge Corner location will offer a Tool Library. You will be able to borrow a rototiller, or a hammer, or the stuff you need to paint your apartment….stay tuned for the full inventory!
In the last 18 months, I have written a lot of letters to you. This one feels extra important. Please share with neighbors and friends, especially families with school-aged children. As we have all spent the summer living under a variety of COVID restrictions, we want to be transparent in our goals and communications as we all come back together in Brookline this fall.
Due to the nature of the pandemic, please be mindful that things can change quickly. You can always find our most recent updates here. We also push all updates out on Facebook and Instagram, please consider following us @brklib
As always, I want to thank you all for your understanding and support as we all work through this unprecedented time together. I can speak for the Board of Trustees and all Library staff when I say, we are all looking forward to offering unfettered access to the libraries, and of course, to the end of the pandemic.
Sara F. Slymon
Dear Community Members:
The Library Board of Trustees and Administration have been watching with growing concern as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has surged as the summer has progressed. Although Brookline is still a fairly low risk community, the Library has visitors from surrounding, more high risk communities every day. And, of course, many Brookline residents are travelling over the summer, only to return to town.
At this time, the Library is enjoying an average of 1600 visitors per day. The staff is already required to wear masks in the library, in public and staff areas. Effective Monday, we are requiring that our dedicated patrons wear masks while enjoying the libraries, as well, regardless of vaccination status. We are implementing this measure out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of helping combat this most recent surge.
We recognize that this is not what we would all prefer, and it is not what we had hoped for this summer. We thank you in advance for your cooperation. Leadership will be greeting patrons at the doors on Monday to welcome you and to answer any questions you may have about this decision.
Sara F. Slymon
It’s happening! We are opening our doors on Tuesday, June 1! All three locations will open to the public at 10 AM. We have a limited number of welcome back gifts for our first 900 visitors. We’re so looking forward to seeing you all and hope you enjoy the many improvements we made to the buildings during the coronavirus closure.
The Library hours are as follows:
Mon & Wed 10-6
Tue & Thur 10-9
Fri & Sat 10-5
Mon & Wed 10-9
Tue & Thur 10-6
When visiting the Libraries, we request that you wear a mask while indoors. Children ages 2 through 11 and unvaccinated adults must wear masks. The staff will all continue to wear masks until further notice. We thank you in advance for your cooperation as we continue to endeavor to help keep our community and staff safe.
We will be monitoring capacity. If we are at maximum capacity, you may experience a brief wait before you can enter the buildings. There are displays around the Libraries showing what percentage of maximum capacity we are experiencing.
There will be no time limit on your visit, and study rooms will be open. We know that students have been anxious to have a place to study. Computers will be available, as will printing and copying.
At this time, there will be no eating or drinking in the Libraries. This does not apply to babies who need to nurse or need a bottle or to anyone who needs a quick sip of water. We hope to return to our more liberal food and drink policy soon.
All programming will remain virtual until further notice. We are hoping to offer some outdoor programming in person this summer, so keep an eye on our social media (@brklib) and the library calendar. The second floor of the Brookline Village location will be closed to the public. There are alternate restrooms on both the main and lower levels.
There will be no room reservations at this time, as we are using them as alternate break spaces.
We ask that you follow any instructions issued by the staff as we acclimate to this change in services. You may be asked to keep a bit of distance between yourself and staff, and we continue to have plexiglass up at public desks, and we ask that you stay behind it while asking questions. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Everyone at the Public Library of Brookline is very excited to see you all! We look forward to Tuesday!
Dear Library Patrons:
The library is proceeding with our plan to re-open on June 1 at all three locations, however, the Governors announcement drastically (and unexpectedly) changed public expectations about what public service will look like.
The Board of Library Trustees will be reviewing the plan on Monday, May 24, and I hope to announce new guidelines the next day.
The staff is looking forward to welcoming you back into the buildings. We appreciate all of the support you offered us throughout the pandemic, and hope that you all stayed safe and well.
Dear Brookline Patrons:
I am thrilled to finally be able to announce the re-opening of the Public Library of Brookline. As you all know, we closed on March 14, 2020, but within two weeks of that closure began offering virtual programming along with email and chat reference services. As the pandemic wore on, we offered more and more services, adding materials pickup, telephone reference,
expanded hours, hotspot and laptop loans, as well as restoring museum passes and the loan of our Library of Things.
On June 1, at 10 am, we will open our doors to the public for browsing and in-house computer use at all three locations. Like many facilities, it will look a little different than it did before COVID. Please see the following guidelines:
- All patrons 2 years old and older must be wearing a face covering which fully covers their mouth and nose at all times while in the library. Face coverings are explicitly described on the Town website; all face coverings must meet these requirements.
- 6’ of social distancing will be maintained in line and in the stacks.
Visits are limited to one per day, and may last no longer than 30 minutes.
- Browsing and computer use are allowed, but there will be very limited seating.
- There are beautiful new touch screen self checks at Brookline Village and Putterham.
- All magazines will be available to be checked out, even the most recent issue.
- Newspapers will not be immediately available. We are working on resubscribing to them, and hope to have them soon.
- No food or drink will be allowed in the libraries at this time.
- The library has a limited supply of hand sanitizer and bleach wipes at the service desks, if you would like to wipe anything down.
- Custodians will be sanitizing frequently touched surfaces often.
Capacity limits will be strictly enforced, and will be expanded as the state expands their guidelines, and as Dr. Jett allows:
- Brookline Village: 75
- Coolidge Corner: 30
- Putterham: 12
At this time, we plan to continue offering all of our programming virtually. We hope to offer someoutdoor programming this summer, so stay tuned for that! All program rooms, meeting rooms, study rooms, etc will remain closed until further notice. We are not accepting room reservations for the future yet, but will be sure to let you know when we are!
If you are interested in continuing to participate in contactless pickup, please reach out to Mutual Aid Brookline (MAB). They have been an incredible support to the community, and partner to the library, throughout the pandemic, and can deliver books to you at your home.
The staff and Trustees of the Library are so excited to welcome you back. We have beautified all of the libraries while we have been closed. Look for new paint, furniture, and our pilot program of universal multilingual signage on the Youth Services floor of Brookline Village.
I would like to thank you all for your overwhelming support and many kindnesses to library staff during the pandemic. We have been printing and copying your many notes, emails, and Google reviews and hanging them in the elevators and the staff rooms to help keep up morale!
See you June 1!
Dear Brookline Community:
I am writing to follow up on the letter that the Trustees and I published last week. First, however, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the many, many folks who reached out to the Trustees, the staff, and me, thanking us for all that we are, and have been, doing, and encouraging us to follow the recommendations of Dr. Jett regarding re-opening the library. We received emails, chats, voicemails, Facebook messages, and even a couple of notes through the book drop. Thank you so much!
A couple of community members reached out to me with questions and I thought it best to put the questions/concerns and answers all in one place, for everyone’s convenience:
- There were several questions about Dr. Jett’s data and his reasoning behind his decisions. I would say, with utmost respect, that those questions should be directed to Dr. Jett. I will pass along your concerns to him, but would suggest you reach out to him directly.
- “I am not aware of generally declining availability of COVID testing.” COVID testing statewide has declined precipitously in Massachusetts during the month of March.
- “If there are not enough tests to track a spike, then how does he (Dr. Jett)know there is an uptick in the UK variant?” There are more reported occurrences than before, but likely many undetected due to lack of testing.
- “The Board’s letter says it is waiting to re-open the buildings until the majority of staff have been vaccinated. Can you please tell us what your ‘majority’ metric is, and what portion of staff have already been vaccinated?” Dr. Jett indicated that herd immunity is reached at 70% so that is the number we are using. We are actively, though anonymously, collecting data about how many staff have been vaccinated. As of March 29, we are at 29%. Vaccinations for staff are becoming ever more available. Since December, we have been fiercely advocating on the state and national level to have library workers included in the vaccine schedule with educators, but our pleas went entirely unacknowledged. The Brookline Board of Library Trustees wrote and sent an amazing letter to Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Sudders, which they never received confirmation of receipt for. Furthermore, the letter was used as a model by other Boards of Trustees across the state.
- “The letter indicates optimism about opening ‘sooner, rather than later’, thanks to anticipated widespread vaccine availability by mid-April. But I believe this discussion started with a statement that the Board is eyeing July for re-opening. How are those two timelines reconciled in the Board’s thinking?” When I presented the library budget to the Advisory Committee on March 4, Governor Baker had not yet made his March 17 announcement that all Massachusetts residents would be eligible to be vaccinated on April 19. That announcement enabled us to shift our timeline, and we have done so.
- “In the library trustees meeting minutes I have seen little or no discussion about community outreach, especially to folks who don’t have internet access or computers at home.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, the library has been actively reaching out to the community in a variety of ways. We have designated outreach and programming staff who handle that work, so while it might not appear in Board minutes, it is definitely happening. Among other steps, we offered all of our laptop computers to the Town IT department to deploy to students at the beginning of the pandemic. We have partnered with Brookline Thrives to send home printed announcements regarding our programs and services. We print a weekly update in the Brookline TAB. I have been on the radio multiple times discussing programs and services. We have been loaning laptops bundled with hotspots for folks who don’t have computers or internet access at home, the expanded scope of our wifi hotspot program is due to the generosity of the Brookline Library Foundation. Our wifi extends outside of our buildings, and we have put out yard signs providing the password. We currently offer printing services so that those without a printer at home still have access. We have also partnered with Brookline Interactive Group to live-stream much of our programming on television in order to make programming accessible to patrons without internet access. We have also partnered with the Senior Center to distribute Adult Craft-Along kits with DVD instructions. With regard to unhoused residents, we have been very concerned about them. I am serving on the Town’s Homelessness Task Force to help coordinate town-wide efforts on this issue. In addition, during the pandemic, most shelters have expanded the hours that they are available to people who are experiencing homelessness so they have not been without shelter, particularly during the winter.
The library has worked hard to connect with our elderly and at-risk neighbors through a robust partnership with Mutual Aid Brookline. We have streamlined our processes regarding who/how materials can be picked up so that folks who can’t make it to the libraries still receive service. We also staff the library phones robustly to provide reference and technology assistance to our patrons who aren’t computer buffs. We enjoyed a fun uptick of folks needing training on their devices given to them by kids and grandkids for the holidays!
- “Can we re-open the library for folks/services that really, really need it?” Library management is hard at work planning to re-open. I don’t want to give an estimate on when exactly it will be, but I can give you some ideas of what will likely be available, barring any extreme, unforeseen circumstances:
- Limited in-person browsing at all locations. We will honor capacity limits and allow folks 20-30 minutes to browse the collections, pick up holds and museum passes, etc.
- Computer use. Similar model to browsing. We do currently offer printing and have extended the reach and strength of our wifi around all three locations. The wifi is available 24/7. And, as mentioned above, we loan computers, wifi hotspots, iPads, and Launchpads, for anyone who needs one.
- Surprise book bundles. This program has proven popular for children and we hope to continue it, so that folks who are in a rush, or cramped by their limited browsing time, can grab a bundle and go!
- Outdoor programming. (And continued streaming programs)
- Summer reading for all ages.
- Expanded museum pass availability as museums re-open.
- We anticipate a phased re-opening.
Re-opening may seem as simple as throwing our doors open, but we have had to do a huge amount of reconfiguring of the buildings to enable us to have as many staff working as possible. We have moved offices, computers, hold shelves, new material displays, break rooms, etc. Most of that work will have to be modified in order to schedule our 94 staff members in the spaces safely. We are well on our way to having a cohesive plan for re-opening, but are not quite there yet.
- “I haven’t seen any metrics or targets for the library reopening or really much discussion about the public health guidance that has led to the prolonged closure. Again, it seems like this decision has been made in a very opaque manner” The library has engaged in a very strong campaign to notify the public of any and all service changes. We believe that we have always been good at our messaging, but we have kicked it up several notches during the pandemic. For a long time last year, I was issuing letters to the public every couple of weeks. We have a weekly newsletter. My letters and the newsletter content are frequently reproduced either in addition to or in lieu of the library’s weekly column in the TAB. We send press releases to all local agencies, including the Town’s PR firm, which reissue them widely. The Library Board meets on the second Tuesday of every month, all meetings are open to the public. You can subscribe to receive notifications of Trustee activity here.As I have mentioned elsewhere, Dr. Jett is the authority on public health in Brookline. As an agency of the Town, the Trustees decided from the beginning that it was advisable and appropriate to follow his advice as it pertains to our operations. As many of you know, Brookline is a member of the Minuteman Library Network of 41 area libraries. At this time, somewhere between 57-73% of those libraries are still closed to the public, due to the public health advice they have received locally.It bears noting that yesterday, the CDC director warned of “impending doom” as COVID cases rise nationwide. She urged Americans to be patient: “We’re just almost there, but not quite yet. And so I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.”
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you in the Town for your tireless support and encouragement as we navigate these scary times together. And thank you to those who submitted thoughtful questions; I hope I have answered them clearly. If you have further questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Trustees of the Library, and the Library Director have dedicated themselves to ensuring the safety of the public and the staff as their foremost priority throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Board, Director and the staff of the library would like nothing better than to throw our doors wide and welcome the people of Brookline back into the buildings, we believe at this time that it is prudent to wait a little while longer.
In a meeting today, and in several other meetings recently, Brookline Health Commissioner Dr Swannie Jett reiterated that the pandemic is not over. He pointed out there has been an uptick of the UK variant in Brookline in recent weeks, and that the result of the decline in availability of widespread testing is that we will no longer be able to track surges or spikes. It is his belief, and ours, that we should not be rushing to open the library, or in fact, the country.
Some surrounding libraries have been open periodically for limited in person browsing. Unfortunately, those libraries have had to open and shut and open and shut with the tides of the virus, leading to whiplash amongst their patrons about what their libraries are offering. The plan in Brookline has been a slow steady return to normal, rather than see-sawing back and forth.
The safety of the public and the staff can only be enhanced by waiting to re-open the buildings until the majority of the staff has been vaccinated. Governor Baker’s announcement that all residents of Massachusetts will be eligible for the vaccine in mid-April gives us hope that we will be able to open safely sooner, rather than later.
The Continuation of Operations Plan (COOP) is being updated, and we are actively planning for safety protocols for an open library. We have installed capacity measuring software, and are working on computer usage plans, furniture arrangements, and other measures to guarantee that your library will be safe and comfortable.
Sara Slymon, Library Director &
The Board of Trustees of the Public Library of Brookline
Dear Library Patrons:
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since I wrote last. Some days it feels like a week, and some days it feels like a year.
The violence in the nation’s Capitol has been horrifying and frightening for everyone. The FBI warning afterwards that there was planned violence in all 50 state capitals was very alarming. As of this writing, the Boston office of the FBI has indicated that there are no credible threats for the greater Boston area during the time between January 16 and January 20. We are therefore confident that there will be no impact to library services. However, should there be any violence in the area, we will respond accordingly. The staff, administration, and Board of the library are hopeful that January 21 will be the beginning of a new era for this country, where we can move away from the violence of the last few years.
On Tuesday, January 19 the library will tweak its service model once again in response to the surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state. We will maintain the same offerings, and the same hours, but we will no longer be greeting patrons face to face. Instead, we have installed an intercom system at all three locations. When you arrive, simply press the talk button to let us know you are at the library; a staff member will answer you as soon as they can. At that time, please offer your name, and what you are picking up (book, museum pass, etc.), and the staff member will retrieve it for you. When it is ready, they will call your name through the intercom, and you can open the door to grab your items. There will be large, clear signage explaining the new system at each location. We are still available for more detailed help through phone, chat and email.
At this time Cambridge, Lexington, Dover, and Lincoln are all completely closed due to COVID. This may impact items you have placed holds on, as those libraries are not sending any materials out in delivery.
I am pleased to announce that the Minuteman Library Network is one of the 50 highest borrowers of Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks in the world. Please see Minuteman Executive Director Phil McNulty’s press release here.
As always, I want to thank you all for your patience and cooperation as we endure the pandemic together as a community. We appreciate your continued support and understanding, and look forward to throwing wide the doors again when the pandemic subsides.
Dear Library Patrons:
Just a quick note to wish everyone happy holidays, and a joyous new year. 2020 has been one for the books, and we want to thank you all for your patience and understanding, and for the many messages of thanks and encouragement that you have sent us. We have received notes, emails, Google ratings and artwork throughout the pandemic, and they have been lovingly displayed around the buildings. They have been wonderful reminders of who we serve and how glad we are to do it.
Special thanks to the Library Board of Trustees, the COVID-19 Task Force, and Health Commissioner Dr. Swannie Jett for their steady leadership during the most challenging year in recent memory. Called on repeatedly to make difficult decisions for the health and safety of the public and the staff, they worked hard to optimize services while respecting the medical necessity of safety protocols.
For the last time this year, I want to draw your attention to the staff of the three libraries. The Town is so lucky to have a thoroughly professional, progressive, dedicated staff. It is their efforts, their ideas, and their actions that have enabled us to provide many creative solutions to the challenges of 2020.
I wish you all light and hope for 2021, and we can’t wait to see you again.
Dear Devoted Patrons of the Public Library of Brookline:
Last time I checked in, we were heading into Halloween, and now here we are in the midst of winter holidays!
We were thrilled to be able to bring back most of our part-time employees on Monday, November 2. Several folks had moved out of state and didn’t return, but we are overjoyed to be working with those who did.
Due to their return, we were able to restore our hours. At this time we are open pre-pandemic hours at all locations, and we have even added a few hours at our Putterham location. We are still closed on Sundays but hope to restore those hours soon, as well.
I am pleased to announce that we have begun offering many of our Library of Things materials again! You are able to take out WiFi hotspots, games and puzzles, Osmo kits, telescopes, iPads, and our Nintendo Switches, to name a few. We are delighted to get these items back into the hands of the community.
Although the library sustained a large cut to the FY 21 budget, we are proud of how many services we are still able to offer the community. It might seem sensible to think that we are not as busy without patrons in the buildings. Since the beginning of the pandemic, and continuing today, many items which we completed each day have become significantly more time consuming. I have had a few folks ponder: “what are they doing in there all day?” Your team of library professionals have ramped up and deployed so many creative ways to meet your needs during this difficult time. For example, did you know:
- There are multiple librarians staffing the phones, chat lines, and email during all weekday hours the libraries are open, and that they weekly take roughly 460 phone calls (an increase of 60% over last year), 90 live patron chats (a 60% increase over the previous year), and 50 emails (a 16% increase over last year).
- The library staff is offering more programs than before the pandemic. And not just for Children! Adult, Senior, and Teen programming has increased as well. We are offering everything we did pre-pandemic, and then some.
- Our Social Media team has been working overtime to publicize all of the changes in real time, to keep you, our public, updated with all the most current information.
- The Collection Development Manager has been analyzing use statistics across all materials and pivoting to ensure that materials are getting into patrons’ hands. Usually they do an annual audit of the collection to plan the budget for the next year, but during the pandemic the planning has been reviewed almost monthly.
- Staff now caption all program recordings so they are accessible.
- Transcripts of all program recordings are typed and preserved.
- Tents and canopies are set up and taken down depending on the weather conditions.
- We’re working to make printing available to the public soon.
In addition to the work listed above, processing our daily jobs has become quite time consuming. We are cleaning and sanitizing work stations/surfaces and bathrooms frequently. We have to set up tables and plexiglass every day for service. We collect and quarantine returns, payments, and donations. All activities have to have designated areas, and staff is likewise divided throughout the building. These requirements make accomplishing even the most banal of tasks a good deal more time consuming. Planning and executing each level of change is also quite time consuming.
We are sympathetic to the budget woes that the Town is facing, and wanted to make sure folks know how very busy we are, even at full staff, and even without patrons inside the buildings. Your library is so dedicated to the community, and to your health and safety, we thought it was important to let you know how we are serving you behind our closed doors.
I thank you for your support and hope you have safe and happy holidays.
It has been a tremendously difficult year for all of us, with a seemingly never-ending flood of bad news, worry, and stress. I am thrilled to bring you several amazing pieces of good news!
On November 2, the 54 part-time staff who were furloughed in June will be recalled to work. We have missed our colleagues so much and cannot wait to work with them again. Since we will be at full staff, we will return to a contactless pickup schedule much closer to our pre-pandemic hours. Brookline Village will be open four nights a week, and Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village will be open for longer shifts. In addition, we are delighted to offer new morning hours at Putterham on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Library will continue to offer Reference services via phone, email, and chat Monday-Thursday 9 AM – 9 PM and Friday 9 AM – 5 PM. All locations will remain closed on Sundays.
Starting November 2, the Library hours for contactless pickup will be as follows:
Monday-Thursday: 9:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Friday-Saturday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Monday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Tuesday: 9:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Thursday: 9:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Friday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Saturday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Monday: 9:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Tuesday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Thursday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Friday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Saturday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
On October 26, the Youth Services Team is proud to launch our Picture Book Surprise Bundles. This service will provide families with 10 randomly selected picture books without the need to place holds. Instead, families can request a “Picture Book Surprise” at the front desk and staff will be able to select 10 random books from a cart near the check out station. We hope that this makes it easier for families to access books to read with their children.
Craft-Along Kits have been so popular that we are seeking additional funding to offer more of them. There is nothing a librarian hates more than not being able to meet demand!
We have returned to normal loan periods, so please keep an eye on your accounts! Additionally, items that were checked out in the spring or summer are due on November 2. You can return materials at any time through the book drops at any Brookline Library location.
I know you are anxious to get back into the buildings, but we have been advised at this time that it isn’t safe for you, as cases are on the rise again. Rest assured that we will open for computer use and browsing as soon as we safely can. In the interim, please know that we are working hard on designing the library interiors, entrances and exits, etc. with the most stringent COVID guidelines in mind. Additionally, we have been working with Architects for Public Benefit to help regulate movement around the buildings. Architects for the Public Benefit are a team of two architects, one a Brookline resident and mom, who identified a need in municipal environments for professional guidance on managing our buildings safely during re-opening. We are very grateful for their pro bono assistance during this stressful time.
It has been a long seven months since we packed up and went home, not knowing what was going to happen next. Please indulge me as I praise some unsung heroes. The 40 full-time staff of the Library, who were left after our drastic budget cut, have served your community with distinction, dedication, and grace. Within two weeks of shutting down, they pivoted to online programming and ramped up a very robust catalog of programs. From then on, the services cascaded out: chat reference, phone reference, email reference, captioned program recordings, readers advisory lists, heritage month celebrations and book recommendations, developing partnerships to deliver library materials to those who can’t leave the house, UDEMY e-learning, reservation-based pickup, walkup pickup… it goes on and on. The amount of services they have produced is staggering, and each one is of high quality.
Behind the scenes, they accepted schedule and location changes with aplomb. The whole reference team moved to Coolidge Corner. Two Department Heads moved to Putterham. Hours of service changed, then changed again. They worked in rotations, and then some came back to the buildings full time. The Custodians worked nonstop, helping when we housed the firefighters, installing new furnishings, and sprucing up all the buildings, which look brand new thanks to their loving care. The Administrative Team learned a whole new set of skills in order to be able to process payroll, approve bills, and work on the schedule on the days that they worked from home. They learned to host our monthly Trustee meetings and frequent subcommittee meetings on Webex, then Zoom, and to host library staff meetings on Google Meet. The Tech Services Team processed all the new books that were ordered before, during, and after the lockdown, and continues to crank them out so that you can have the newest books as fast as possible. Youth Services got a beautiful redesign of the Brookline Village Children’s Room and have been hosting successful storytimes multiple times a week, as well as making the Teen Stress Less Kits and many of the craft-along kits! And of course the above mentioned new service of Picture Book Surprise Bundles! Reference, Circulation, and Branch Services teams pitched in full time with all of the above.
I think it is important for the community to know how very fortunate they are to have such a dedicated, creative, thoughtful team of professionals serving them. I know I am eternally amazed by them and consider myself the luckiest Library Director to have the privilege to know them and work with them.
I hope you are all healthy and well.
Greetings from the Director’s Office!
This is usually one of the Library’s busiest weeks, welcoming the children back to the Library after school, fresh from their summer vacations, and looking forward to the new academic year. In the time of COVID, we are all missing the comfort of our routines, our annual rituals disrupted by the virus.
We miss all of our patrons terribly, although we have been glad to see some of you through the plexiglass and across the tables as you pick up your holds.
There is no firm date at which we will allow patrons back into the Libraries to browse and use our printing and computer services. The Trustees and I are concerned about the impact of students returning to school, college, and university. We will revisit this topic at our meeting in early October to try to pin down a date.
In the meantime, I am pleased to announce several new and exciting initiatives:
- All due dates are extended until November 2.
- We are working with the schools to help ensure that every child in Brookline has a library card in good standing to begin this challenging new school year.
- Museum passes will be made available again very soon. We are working with the museums to make sure they are open and accepting passes and hope to roll them out soon.
The Putterham restroom construction project is humming along nicely. We look forward to presenting the public with two new, ADA-compliant restrooms when we reopen. Today we picked tile and grout, both in lovely natural colors to keep with the theme of bringing nature into our little mid-century modern gem.
Many of you have asked about donating books and materials to the Library. We will begin accepting donations EXCLUSIVELY at the Brookline Village location, effective immediately. At this time, please do not donate magazines, textbooks, or encyclopedias. We have limited storage space due to our modified workflows due to COVID. We appreciate your support at the ongoing book sale at all three locations and look forward to seeing what you have to donate!
The primary election went very well, and we look forward to seeing you all in November!!
Dear Brookline Library Patrons,
It has been a while since I wrote you last, and for that, please accept my apologies!
Last week the Board of Library Trustees voted to keep the library buildings closed to the public through at least August and most of September, due to the recent upward trends in the COVID-19 numbers in Massachusetts and in consideration of the possible impact of the wave of returning college students. Their goal, and mine, is to make sure we are doing our utmost to keep the public and the staff safe and healthy. Furthermore, we do not currently have the staffing capacity to safely reopen the buildings, as nearly 60% of our staff is currently furloughed. We continue to monitor all news on the virus and follow the recommendations of Dr. Swannie Jett, our Health Commissioner. The Trustees will be reconsidering when we open at their September meeting.
As promised, we started contactless pickup on July 6, and it was wildly successful. As time wore on, the refrain we heard most from all of you is that you wished you could come whenever you wanted to pick up your holds, rather than dealing with the cumbersome process of making a reservation and waiting several days to come in. The second most frequent comment was that you missed seeing us. Well, we miss you, too, and we got to thinking about how we might be able to see you safely and get your items to you more easily.
Today, August 17, we started walk-up service. Now each location has hours five days a week when you can drop by spontaneously to pick up all your items! No more arriving to find out that since we packed your bag two days ago, more items have arrived and you must return for a second or third (you all love to read!!) trip each week. Please note that we can only check out materials that are on hold for you and ready for pickup. We are not able to offer in person browsing, computers, or in-person reference, but this new service is offered with a human smile and will be easier and more timely.
The first day of the service was very successful. We served more patrons than we would have been able to with our limited amount of slots in the previous appointment-based system. We got to wave and smile and catch up with you. All three locations have stickers indicating required social distance. We have tables separating staff from patrons by the CDC-recommended six feet. There are plexiglass screens on all of the tables providing further protection. Patrons wait outside and the staff is inside, so it is all fresh air, no sharing of air. The doors are propped open, so you needn’t touch door handles. Hand sanitizer is provided at service points, as are gloves. And, of course, as per the Brookline Department of Health, everyone must wear a mask.
We recognize that even all of these safety measures may not be reassurance enough for at-risk patrons, which is why we have partnered with Mutual Aid Brookline to deliver books to you!
The Library has reached out to the Minuteman Library Network to extend all due dates until September 30. During this time no fines will be accrued, but if you feel safe doing so, please return your library materials when you are done with them; others may be waiting for them. We are accepting returns through the book drops at all Brookline Libraries, so you can return materials at any time.
On behalf of the staff and the Trustees, I would like to thank you all for the kind notes you have put through the bookdrop, the lovely YELP! reviews, and the incredible chats, emails, and letters you have sent. We appreciate them, and you, so much. These times are wearing on everyone, and a little love from the public goes a long way for all of us.
Don’t forget that we also offer the Friends Book Sale outside, weather permitting, when we are onsite. There is some great stuff out there!
We’ll let you know about any further developments as we work towards welcoming you back into the buildings!
Stay safe and well,
Public Library of Brookline
Dear Brookline Library Patrons:
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding as the Library staff try to navigate the new work environment we find ourselves in during the global pandemic.
On Monday, July 6, we started contactless pickup. Like all rollouts, we experienced some bumps and bruises, but for the most part it is going smoothly.
I have noticed that many of you are using the “notes” section of the reservation system to ask for us to make a variety of exceptions. It pains us all that we cannot accommodate special requests at this time, but as I am sure most of you know, we sustained a nearly 60% cut to our staff. We are currently working with 20 people spread across the three buildings, and we are processing over 500 bags per day. We are also pulling the books for new hold requests, checking in nearly four months of book drop returns, and unpacking dozens of boxes of delivery each day. We have 20 folks working from home answering phones, chat, and email, nonstop.
Some things we have seen that we cannot accommodate:
- We cannot call you to discuss the holds. Please feel free to call a reference librarian at: (617) 730 2370 (ext. 3), and they can walk you through any questions.
- We cannot do partial pickups. You must pick up all of the items that are on hold and available for you. If there is something in your bag that you don’t want anymore, please just drop it right into the book drop, and we will check it in after a three-day quarantine.
- We cannot respond to questions in the notes field. Please call, email, or chat with a reference librarian.
- Once we have prepared your bag for pickup, we may not be able to add additional items that may have come in for you. We will do our best, but we pack the bags in the morning and sometimes things arrive late in the afternoon.
Some common questions:
- Are there signs to help me find the pickup location? The pickup locations at Brookline Village (Main Library) and Coolidge Corner are right near the front doors. Putterham is down the driveway at the entrance to the program room.
- What about rain? If it begins to rain, we will move the items into the vestibules and prop open the front door.
- Will someone put things in my car? We are not currently offering that service.
- Do I have to have a car? No!
- May I convert my e-card to a physical card? Yes! DO put that in the notes, and we will place your new library card in your bag!
- Are you accepting donations of books / other materials? Not at this time. Please do not put donations in the book drops or leave them outside our buildings.
- Can I return items? Yes! Book drops are open during the following hours:
- 9 AM – 5 PM Monday, Tuesday, Saturday
- 1 – 9 PM Wednesday, Thursday
- 1 – 9 PM Monday, Tuesday
- 9 AM – 5 PM Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
- 1 – 9 PM Monday, Tuesday
- 9 AM – 5 PM Thursday, Friday, Saturday
We hope that you are enjoying the service. Please stay tuned for any further developments as we work towards welcoming you back into the buildings!
Stay safe and well,
Public Library of Brookline
Dear Brookline patrons,
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your patience, understanding, and concern during this difficult time. So many of you have reached out in the past weeks and months to tell us how much you have been missing the Libraries; all of us here have been so grateful for your words of warmth. We miss you all, as well.
We are very excited to share information about Stage 3: Contactless Pickup, which will begin on July 6. We know that so many of you value the physical collections we have, and we’re pleased to be able to make those available, once more. Whether you’ve had items on hold since March or have just started placing holds this week, we look forward to getting items back out to your hands.
We’re here for you while The Public Library of Brookline is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please take advantage of our virtual offerings. We will begin to offer contactless pickup of library materials at all locations beginning July 6, 2020. We appreciate your patience as we all adjust to the new realities of library service.
With the exception of audio/visual materials and WiFi Hotspots, our Library of Things and iPads are currently unavailable.
Your items currently on hold with a status of “Ready for Pickup” will be available for pickup at the location where they are being held.
You have three options for ordering items:
- Place a hold via the online catalog or MLN app
- Chat with a librarian via our website Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5:30 PM and Friday 9 AM – 5 PM. Starting July 6, chat hours are Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 9 PM and Friday 9 AM – 5 PM.
- Call a librarian during the above hours at 617-730-2370 (ext 3).
We are unable to check the library shelves on demand for a title.
Booking an Appointment
Starting July 1, once you receive notice from the Library that your item is READY FOR PICKUP, please book an appointment for pickup. You may book an appointment through the Contactless Pickup website (brklib.com/pickup), through chat, or by phone. Same day appointments are not available.
If you use The RIDE as transportation to the Public Library of Brookline, please choose any appointment time on the day that you plan to pick up your items. In the “Notes for Library Staff” section, specify that you use The RIDE (or inform the librarian who is booking your appointment via chat or phone). Once this is noted, your bag(s) of materials will be available for pickup at any time on the date that you booked your appointment.
Picking up Items
Pickup locations include:
Arrive at the Library during your appointment time. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing while approaching the pickup area. Retrieve the bag containing your item(s), which will be clearly labeled with your last name and the first three letters of your first name. Your materials will already be checked out on your card, and a receipt will be inside your bag. Enjoy your library materials!
For the safety of our staff and patrons, we will not open our Library doors and are unavailable to speak face-to-face. If you have questions, please call us at 617-730-2370 (ext 3).
If you miss your appointment or cancel less than 24 hours before your appointment, you will have an opportunity to schedule one additional pickup appointment before the items in your bag are canceled and returned to the shelves.
No fines will have accrued during the quarantine period, but they will resume after June 30. Based on CDC guidance provided to the Institute for Museums and Library Services, items will be quarantined for 72 hours after you return them and before we check them in. All items will be backdated to the date that you returned them.
Starting July 6 these book drop locations will be open during Library business hours:
- Brookline Village- book drop closest to School Street at the Main Entrance
- Coolidge Corner- the right book drop at the Main Entrance
- Putterham- both book drops at the Main Entrance
We implore you not to leave library materials outside the Libraries when the book drops are closed, as we cannot be responsible for damage or theft.
Thank you for your patience and support as we transition to serving you with contactless pickup and returns. We are excited to be back in the buildings and thrilled to be able to offer you physical materials after the long hiatus.
The Staff of the Public Library of Brookline
Greetings to the Brookline Community!
On Monday, June 15, we will begin offering the following services:
The book drops at all three libraries will be open.
You may return items Mon-Fri, 9-5. Please do not leave any library materials outside as we cannot be responsible for theft or damage.
All materials will be quarantined for three days after you return them. They will continue to show on your record as “checked out,” but you will accrue no fines for the quarantine period. We have over 37,000 Brookline items checked out at this time. If you return items and they don’t come off your card after a week, please let us know. You may return materials from other Minuteman libraries. We do not accept returns for Boston Public Library or for the Brookline Public Schools.
We are pleased to announce that, weather permitting, we will have book sale materials available outside to purchase. The book sale will operate on an honor system: select your materials and place your payment in an envelope. Put the envelope in the book drop. We cannot make change at this time. Don’t forget: all book sale proceeds go directly to support library programming through the Friends of the Library.
**We are still not accepting print or audio/visual donations of any kind** Please do not put donations outside the libraries or in the book drop.
The Library has a limited number of tax forms and instructions. We will put them outside, and when they are exhausted they cannot be replenished. Please be considerate of your neighbors and only take one of each item you need.
More galleys! Sometimes called ARC’s (Advance Reader’s Copy), librarians are frequently given copies of books before publication for review. We have all pitched in whatever we have and will have trucks of freebies outside for you to take home. Please share them with a friend or put them in the Little Free Libraries around town when you are done; we do not need them back.
We are so looking forward to getting all caught up, and, on July 6, moving to Stage 3: Contactless Pickup.
To our patrons in the Brookline Community:
This past three months has been one of the most unusual times in American history. I hope that all of you have been well and healthy during the pandemic. For those of you stricken by illness or loss, please know that our hearts go out to you.
We are so anxious to get back to serving you in person and providing you physical materials, but we need to make sure that we are able to do that in a way that is safe for both you and our
staff. Each municipality has been on its own with regard to decisions about library service. Governor Baker did not mention libraries at all throughout the pandemic, and we were not included in the Governor’s main re-opening plan. Some libraries have started providing curbside service already. We do not believe that curbside service of library materials is safe yet.
We anticipate lagging behind retail establishments somewhat substantially. When you purchase a new TV or get some take out, you do not then return all the packaging after keeping it in your house for a few weeks. Physical library materials are returned to us. Staff must handle them. Then they are re-circulated to the public. It is simply impossible for us, particularly after sustaining significant staff reductions, to sanitize every item that is returned to us. Please know that the few local libraries offering curbside pickup are outliers, and that service is not endorsed for this area at this time by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners or the Massachusetts Library Association.
We are so grateful for your patience with us thus far, and we beg your patience for a bit longer. The staff will return to the closed buildings in mid-June to clear out the massive backlog that we have accrued. Currently, there are nearly 40,000 physical items checked out from our three libraries. We have over 100 boxes of transit waiting to be delivered and an outstanding hold list of 4,000 items. We are also excited to report that we have $60,000 worth of new materials to catalog and make available. To process all of these materials and offer the staff necessary training will take a couple of weeks.
The Library has a staged re-opening plan:
Stage 1: all staff working from home (we are in this stage now).
Stage 2: staff returns to buildings to process backlog (June 15-July3)
Stage 3: contactless pickup (July 6- )
Stage 4: patrons return to buildings (following strict guidelines, timing to be determined)
All three library locations will begin accepting returns on Monday, June 15, from 9 am through 5 pm. At 5pm, the book drops will be locked until the next morning. We implore you not to leave library materials outside the libraries when the book drops are closed, we cannot be responsible for damage or theft. There will be no staff in the buildings on Saturday, July 4, or Sunday, July 5, and the book drops will be locked.
The Library will begin offering “Contactless Pickup” on Monday, July 6. All three locations will be putting holds out for folks to pick up by appointment. At that time there will be no in-library service. We should have a clearer picture of the health outlook for the community and our surrounding communities in early July, and we should be able to offer an estimate of when we will be able to welcome the community back into our buildings.
At the time of this writing, there are still no libraries in the Minuteman network or in Boston that are open to the public.
Please continue to enjoy our many online offerings, including our latest virtual library branch on Animal Crossing!
Sara F. Slymon
Dear Friends in the Brookline Community:
It is with heavy heart that I report that the Public Library of Brookline will remain shuttered until at least June 29, in keeping with the closure of the Brookline Public Schools and all schools in the Commonwealth. We miss you all very much, and know that you miss us, too. Keep an eye on social media for a glimpse of some of our faces smiling out at you.
As the COVID-19 epidemic in Massachusetts begins to subside, we will begin to prepare in earnest to reopen as soon as we can and welcome you back.
Don’t forget we are offering lots and lots of wonderful services online!
With fondest regards,
Due to the Governors’ announcement this afternoon, the Library will remain closed through May 4. We understand that this is an inconvenience in the short term, but know that it will protect our public and our staff during this difficult time.
I want to take a moment to thank you all for your patience during this unprecedented public health emergency. I am pleased to announce that, effective tomorrow, the entire Library staff will be beyond the window whereby they could have been infected with COVID-19 while interacting with the public at work. No one has become ill, and for that we are grateful.
While the staff have been at home, they have been working hard to boot up remote services. Tomorrow, March 26, at 10 am, we will begin offering remote reference, virtual storytimes, etc. The schedule is Monday through Saturday, from 10 am – 6 pm. We hope that these services will help combat isolation and return some familiar faces to your families. There will be no staff on site, per the Governor’s order. This will mean that the staff will not have access to some of our resources, like microfilm, the closed stacks, or various reference materials. They will work through our online reference databases and will provide you the best answers they can. Our online resources will continue to be available 24/7, and can be found here.
Email and chat reference will address ONLY library reference questions; the Town asks that you please call the Emergency Operations Center for any COVID-19 related questions, as well as for any general municipal government questions:
“The call center will be staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number for the call center is 617-879-5636.”
Other activities that Library staff are participating in while we are closed include making N95 masks on our 3D printers (which they took home on Monday) and sewing cotton masks on the Library sewing machines. A good portion of the staff have also volunteered to work at the Emergency Operations Center answering calls and helping the Task Force and first responders keep the Town running.
I would like to remind everyone that the Library book drops are CLOSED. Please do not leave any library materials or donations outside the Library. Thus far, this has only been a problem at the Coolidge Corner Library, so, if you live in that neighborhood or know someone who does, please help us spread the word. While we are closed, all materials will be automatically renewed, check out periods have been extended to one month, and all expiring library cards will be automatically renewed.
We are not currently able to submit our weekly column to the Brookline TAB, but we are working on it and hope to have one a week from tomorrow.
Please remember that this is a limited public service, we will not be able to book rooms, place holds, or some other regular services.
From our Library family to your family: We miss you. We will be back as soon as we can.
Sara F. Slymon
All locations of the Public Library of Brookline are closed until at least April 6. We are following the guidelines of the CDC, Public Health, and the lead of the Brookline Public Schools.
- Please visit us here for resources that you can use from the comfort of your home.
- Go here for instant library card registration.
- Information about Library closures and other notices can be found here.
All library materials will be renewed and no fines will be accrued during this health emergency.
PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE LIBRARY MATERIALS OUTSIDE THE LIBRARY. There is no staff onsite to bring them in.
We apologize for the continued inconvenience, and hope you are staying well.
Thank you so much for your patience and cooperation during this unprecedented situation. Out of an abundance of caution, we have locked the book drops at all three locations. There will be no fines or fees during the period when the libraries are closed. Auto-renewals will continue, and all due dates have been extended to a month.
We ask that you please not leave returns or donations outside the library. There is no staff onsite bringing things inside, and materials could be stolen or damaged if they remain outside for several weeks.
For more information about the library during the public health emergency, please use these links:
For Town updates:
Please use our online resources as you await the re-opening of the library. Many of our vendors have lifted the monthly borrowing limit and extended due dates:
To obtain a library card instantly:
Stay safe, and keep reading!
Dear Library Patrons:
The Board of Library Trustees have made the difficult, but necessary, decision to follow the lead of the Brookline Public Schools and close all Library locations through at least March 27. All decisions to close public libraries are made in consultation with public health professionals, Town administration, and Library leadership. We understand, and deeply regret, the inconvenience this will cause our loyal patrons.
We have extended our loan periods on all items to 4 weeks. All fines accrued during this health emergency will be waived.
We thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we face this health emergency together.
Sara Slymon, Library Director, on behalf of a unanimous Board of Library Trustees.
The current health emergency is causing anxiety across our community. The Town and the Library are sensitive to that, and want to apprise you of the steps we are taking to address the situation.
The Public Library of Brookline is working closely with the Brookline Office of Public Health and other Town Departments to monitor the latest information and guidelines provided by the by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Library’s highest priority is the health and well-being of library users, staff and volunteers. To help ensure that our library is safe and welcoming to all, we have implemented a strategy that prioritizes prevention. At present, there is no change in our hours, however, we are taking the following precautions:
- In response to the Governor’s State of Emergency declaration and recommendation that non-essential gatherings be canceled, we are canceling all library programs through April 30, 2020.
- We are also closing our public meeting rooms to outside use through April 30, 2020 and will be in touch with any group scheduled to use these spaces.
- You will find hand sanitizer at all public service desks. Our restrooms have plenty of hot water and soap for washing hands.
- We are doubling down on our cleaning of high-touch areas, such as door handles, stair railings, public computers, and other surfaces.
- There is COVID-19 information posted throughout the library building.
- Out of an abundance of caution, we are removing toys, puzzles, Chromebooks, Launchpads, and games from our public areas. We will re-introduce these popular items as soon as we feel it is safe to do so.
Things are changing quickly and the library will continue to work closely with the Brookline Office of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to determine if other actions are warranted. Please check the library website and social media for frequent updates.
Remember – here are a few things you can do to help take care of your health and help protect others:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water (20 seconds of scrubbing) or use alcohol-based hand cleaners (cover all surfaces and rub until dry).
- Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which accelerates the spread of infections.
- If you’re not feeling well, please stay home.
- Visit https://www.brooklinema.gov/covid-19 for the latest Town updates and information on COVID-19.
It is important to remember that COVID-19 isn’t connected to race, ethnicity or nationality. Stigma will not help fight the illness. Sharing accurate information from trusted sources is critical to reduce misinformation. Find reliable and current information about the outbreak from local, state, and national agencies below.
Please sign up here for Alert Brookline to receive push notifications from the Town.
We thank you for your continued support and for helping keep Brookline safe and welcoming.
Trusted Health Resources
- Brookline’s Office of Public Health
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Enjoy Your Library from the Comfort of Your Home
- eBooks, Digital Media, Online Resources, Databases, and Journals
- Get a Library Card (immediate access to digital resources)
This letter was updated 3/16/2020 to remove the link to Public Library of Brookline’s Ask a Librarian service. This service is unavailable while the libraries remain closed.