Browsing is back at Newton Public Library!

No more yellow caution tape: As of Monday, May 3, Newton Public Library patrons are welcome to stroll the shelves; browse the books, DVDs, and other items; and bring their selections to the desk for checkout.

In other words, the library just took a big step toward the pre-pandemic version of “normal.”

“Throughout the pandemic, and certainly for the last few months, the number one question from patrons has been, ‘When are you going to open the shelves?’” said Dr. Cari Cusick, Newton Public Library director. “Everyone is overjoyed that we now have a good answer to that question.”

Not everything is back to normal. Masks are still required inside the library, for adults as well as children ages 5 and older. Computer and study table availability is limited due to social distancing considerations. Public programs – including adult programs and book discussions as well as children’s StoryTimes and Summer Library Program activities – are still being held either online or out in the fresh air of Military Park.

Youth services staff members are excited to welcome patrons to the downstairs children’s library for the first time in over a year.

With the lower level reopened, kids and parents can more easily choose the books, DVDs, activity kits and board games that interest them. What they can’t do – yet – is settle in to spend a whole morning or afternoon reading and playing. The Toy Corral remains closed, and seating has been removed downstairs.

“We’ve got lots of awesome outdoor StoryTimes and other outdoor events in the works for this summer,” youth services supervisor Amy Bayes said. “With those, plus the reopening of our indoor space, we’re all looking forward to the atmosphere getting a lot livelier around here.”

The return of browsing was enabled by several positive developments. Most importantly, vaccines are widely available, and all library staff members have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated. Other factors included rising vaccination rates and falling case numbers in the community, as well as recent CDC guidance stating that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a book or other surface is very low.

Staff members are still happy to find and retrieve library items. Patrons can use the online catalog to search for titles and place requests, or call 316-283-2890, email, or ask a staff member. Requested items are pulled and readied for convenient pickup at the public service desk. No-contact pickup, with items bagged and left on the bench in the front lobby, is also available on request.

Sharon takes down the caution tape that had blocked off the shelves for more than a year. Browsing is back!