From enduring a branch closure to adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hardin County Public Library went through a number of changes last year. But as the library looks toward a new year, director Rene Hutcheson said some new developments are on the horizon.

Hutcheson said the Library Board of Trustees currently is working on a strategic plan amid the library’s north branch closure in September. She said the board is looking to emphasize outreach by further serving those in outlying areas of the county while continuing to serve home-bound individuals, child care centers and those in assisted living and retirement centers.

Since Nov. 2, the library has been limited to curbside service during rising COVID-19 cases in the county. Hutcheson said because many staff members and patrons of the library are over 60, safety was the most pressing consideration when deciding to temporarily forgo in-person services.

“Our first priority has to be the health and safety of our employees and our library patrons,” Hutch­eson said.

In lieu of in-person services, library patrons can reserve books online and pick them up from the library or Colvin Community Center in Radcliff. The library’s Outreach Department also can deliver books, she said.

The library also has found ways to host community events virtually, hosting events for all ages through video conferencing and social media. Some upcoming virtual events include an online Zumba class, an online canvas painting class and an online finance seminar.

“Our programming patrons are pretty regular and it was an easy migration getting them to participate online,” Hutcheson said. “We even added some new folks who weren’t able to visit in-person but found they could join in the activities once they were online.”

Hutcheson said though there is no concrete timeline for reopening, she said in-person services likely will be available again after vaccines are available for staff members and area COVID-19 cases trend downward. She said the library consistently communicates with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department for COVID-19-related guidance.

“They remind us that our curbside service works well and they encourage us to continue in this manner to do our part to minimize the spread,” Hutcheson said.

In the meantime, the library will offer computer, printing and faxing services by appointment in the next few weeks. Hutcheson said updates on these services will be posted on the library’s website and social media pages.

Both branches of the library initially closed to the public in March and began offering curbside service in May. The library’s main branch was reopened for in-person services in June and both branches continued to offer curbside service until the Library Board of Trustees voted in September to permanently close the North Branch facility in Radcliff, citing employee retirement costs, lack of state aid and increased costs of all library operations.

After this, the main branch increased in-person hours to provide more opportunities for patrons to visit, especially those living in Radcliff.

Hutcheson said since the north branch closed, the main branch has received visits from more northern Hardin County residents and the library’s Book­­­-mobile librarian has added a few new patrons from northern Hardin County to his route.

When the library eventually reopens to in-person services, Hutcheson said social distancing and mask mandates will continue to be in effect.

“We have to take staffing into consideration when we open up to in-person services,” she said. “We are also looking into the number of new positive cases and how soon library staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine.”

The Hardin County Public Library is open for curbside services from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. For information on curbside services at the library, go to hcpl.info or call 270-769-6337.

Andrew Critchelow can be reached at 270-505-1746 or acritchelow@thenewsenterprise.com.

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