After COVID closure, patrons line up for Trumbull Library's reopening

TRUMBULL — Digital downloads and curbside pickups are nice, but there is nothing like being inside a library. All of the ambiance came rushing back Monday as a line of patrons made up for a half year pandemic-forced closing by being the first through the door as the Trumbull library reopened to the public.

“My wife and I are usually here about four times a week,” said Don Bell, who was second in line when the doors opened at 3 p.m. “I didn’t want to wait another minute.”

Bell, an avid movie buff, said he used the curbside pickup and the library app Hoopla to get movies and TV series for binge watching, but it wasn’t the same as flipping through the shelves of DVDs.

“I like to browse, see what looks good,” he said.

Amy Morais, who was waiting in line with daughters Ashley, 6, and Kaitlyn, 8, said she appreciated the curbside pickup, but agreed there was nothing like coming in to the library.

“With the curbside, you reserve a book, they call you when it’s ready to pick up,” she said. “But with the kids books, they’re done reading them that day.”

Ashley said she was looking forward to seeing if the new book in the Dog Man series was available. Kaitlyn said her tastes ran toward chapter books, especially the Wedgie & Gizmo. Both girls carried book bags to bring home their finds.

Library Director Stefan Lyhne-Nielsen said the reopening was the result of months of work.

“We’ve been working toward this for the past two months,” he said. “Ever since we started curbside pickup and drop-off, we’ve been working on it.”

Though the library is open, there are still restrictions. Patrons may come in to browse the stacks and borrow books. Other services, like photocopying, internet browsing and simply sitting and reading, remain prohibited until health guidelines allow, he said. Some services and programs are being conducted remotely. Information is available on the library website.

“The biggest questions is how many people will come,” Lyhne-Nielsen said. “Trumbull has a lot of library-goers. We’re hoping it’s manageable.”

During the pandemic shutdown, Trumbull’s library patrons turned online in droves, Lyhne-Nielsen said. Curbside pickup, which started with about 60 people a day taking advantage of the grab-and-go book borrowing, surged to more than 300 daily users within weeks.

Other remote services, like digital and audio book downloads through the services Overdrive and Hoopla, also more than doubled, he said. The library had budgeted $18,000 for Hoopla this year, a service that costs up to about $3 per download. But readers are on pace to more than double that amount to $40,000 or more, he said.

Overdrive had similar numbers, he said.

“That’s tens of thousands of downloads,” he said.

Even when the pandemic ends, Lyhne-Nielsen said he anticipated many patrons will continue to use the download services due to their convenience. The library, too, would like people to download books rather than coming in to borrow the audio CD.

“There’s nothing worse than someone coming in and telling you they borrowed a 12-disc book, and disc No. 5 is broken,” he said. “Plus with download, you don’t have to change the CD, it just keeps playing.”

For those who do prefer in-person borrowing, the library looks a little different, at least for now. The tables and chairs where people used to be able to do homework or sit and read have been removed, the computers and coffee machines are off, and the children’s play areas remain off limits.

Lyhne-Nielsen said those were minor inconveniences compared to the big picture of people browsing for books again.

“Right now, it feels a little empty,” he said. “But everything we removed can be put back, and everything we turned off can be turned back on.”

The library is operating on reduced hours, 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.