Several libraries and museums, as well as the art gallery in downtown Sarnia and Lambton County’s archives, plan to open their doors to the public over the next two months for the first time since March.
Fifteen of the county’s 25 library branches, most starting the week of Sept. 7, will allow people with valid library cards to book appointment times to use physically distanced computers, access library Wi-Fi, and enjoy in-person reference services.
“Certainly the computer use, given Lambton County is a predominantly rural county, there is a need for consistent and reliable internet access,” said Andrew Meyer, general manager of Lambton’s cultural services division.
“We have been hearing from our patrons that there is a desire to access public computers again.”
Free Wi-Fi has been available from library parking lots, he said, “but we wanted to provide a space safely (inside) as well.”
There’s also been a demand to resume library programming, he said.
“We’re not quite there yet.”
The reopening plan follows public-health advice and incorporates an enhanced cleaning regimen, county officials said in a Monday announcement.
The county recalled most of its 120 laid-off cultural services staff in July to prepare for the reopenings, Meyer said.
As of Monday, there were 13 permanent cultural services staff still laid off, but the intention is to have them return in September, he said.
Casual and student staff won’t be recalled in September, he said.
Library visitors will have to wear masks, provide information for contact tracing and still won’t be able to physically browse stacks. Instead, people are encouraged to continue using the curbside pickup service.
The number of library locations offering that service is increasing to 16 from 13, including the downtown Sarnia branch when $390,000 in electrical and HVAC renovations wrap up there hopefully by the end of September, Meyer said.
“The contractors told us last week we’re about six weeks out,” he said.
Sarnia’s Mallroad branch will remain curbside pickup only.
“We found it would be difficult to open it up for on-site services just because of the volume of traffic it sees with curbside,” Meyer said.
Other branches are staying closed largely because it wouldn’t be possible to maintain safe physical distancing, he said.
“We’re very conscious of following those public-health recommendations.”
County officials have tried to ensure there’s at least one curbside-access and one physical-access location in each of Lambton’s 11 municipalities, he said.
Appointments can be made by calling 1-866-324-6912 ext. 5900, or visiting lclibrary.ca.
Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
With cooler fall weather around the corner, it’s important to open local facilities for public access, said Lambton County Warden Bill Weber.
“Business will be a long time until it gets back to normal, but this is a start to normalizing things again,” he said.
The Lambton Heritage Museum meanwhile is reopening with timed ticket entry on Sept. 2, and – in partnership with the Grand Bend Arts Centre – featuring the annual Paint Ontario Exhibition and Sale that was postponed from its original opening in March.
For more information and tickets, call 519-243-2600 or visit heritagemuseum.ca.
The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery reopens for timed ticket entry Oct. 2 with two new exhibitions. They include works from the Z’otz* Collective, and the Group of Seven: Their Visions Revisited 100 Years Later exhibition from the gallery’s permanent collection. To book a free ticket and for more information call 519-336-8127 or visit jnaag.ca.
Timed ticket entry starts Sept. 8 at the Oil Museum of Canada. Details are available by calling 519-834-2840 or visiting oilmuseum.ca.
Scheduled appointments for research at the Lambton County Archives also start Sept. 8. Details are available via 519-845-5426 and lambtonarchives.ca.
“We look forward to welcoming the community back into our facilities and providing safe access to our programs and services,” Meyer said.