JACKSON TWP. The Stark County District Library system was closed on April 3 because of Gov. Mike DeWine’s Stay at Home order that closed non-essential businesses, schools and canceled many local events because of the COVID-19 virus.

The new Jackson Township Branch Library building was on schedule for a May 16 opening, but because of the shutdown, that has been delayed.

“We are unable to set an opening date at this time,” library CEO and Executive Director Mary Ellen Icaza said. “When the Stay at Home order gets lifted, we’ll see what we can do to get restarted and we’ll resume as soon as we can. The feedback from patrons before we closed was that everyone was excited about the opening.”

While the outside of the building and the parking lot are finished, the inside still needs some furniture and shelving. The summer programming at the location will be discussed soon.

“The Library system is hoping to do summer programming including offering programs at the Jackson Township location. The programming will be part of our re-opening plan. We’re also exploring offering some programming and classes online,” Icaza said.

“The Library does have a trainer making training videos right now including classes on how to make masks and surgical hats,” said Stark County Library Communications Director Stephanie Cargill.

The Library has additional online resources including e-books and audio books accessed through the Overdrive/Libby app. Thousands of popular e-Magazine titles are available digitally through RBdigital and Flipster. Streaming music, TV shows, and movies are offered using Overdrive/Libby or Hoopla. These services even offer comics, for the younger, and young at heart.

In addition, the library staff has been working to develop lists of digital learning resources and activities that parents and caregivers can use for homeschooling. There are special pages on the Library’s website with links to activities for both children and adults to help keep them connected to their community during this time of social and physical distancing.

Some of the technology the new Jackson Township library will have include hold lockers in the lobby for the 24/7 services; self-checkouts will be in the front area; a Media Box filled with music, movies and video games; laptops will be available for patrons to use while in the library and more electrical outlets have been added for those who bring in their own laptop to work on.

“We’ll be expanding the number of hold lockers in the lobby. Patrons are welcome to go online and see what is in the Media Box and can reserve items online and pick them up from the hold lockers,” Cargill said.

There will also be interactive technology for children to use and at the end of stacks of books, there will be digital catalogs for patrons to see what is currently in the library or items they may have to request. The areas and technology are ADA compliant.

The new building will also have open areas for community meetings and an area with hardwood flooring to use for the maker space and study areas.

“The private rooms will be glassed in and will have updated technology and huge monitors for presentations for businesses to use. The rooms can also be used for interviewing job applicants or for students to use for studying. There is also a children’s room, teen area and a spacious main area. There is lots of natural light and everything is very bright inside,” Cargill said.

According to a recent press release, all Library employees have either used their accrued sick time or paid time off (PTO), or took a voluntary layoff. Those who opted for the voluntary layoff are eligible for unemployment insurance as well as the federal government’s stimulus package that will temporarily add $600/week in additional pay, which will result in many employees receiving benefits equal to or greater than their normal salaries. The Library will continue to pay the employer portion of employee health benefits through July 31, 2020, and all employees and their families will have access to mental health support via telehealth.

The Library administration and non-bargaining unit (NBU) employees also share the burden during this crisis. Library administration and NBU will operate under reduced hours, while some may opt for voluntary layoff. Only essential work needed to maintain operations and communications during the closure and to plan for Library facilities’ reopening will be done during this time.

“I look forward to the day when we can walk back into the Library, see the staff again, and safely serve the public – face to face. Until that time, we will continue to serve as best as we can – virtually. We are all anxious to get back open. We’re missing our patrons,” Icaza said.