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Disinfectant, Gloves And Quarantined Books: How Massachusetts Libraries Are Coping As They Slowly Reopen

The public library in Franklin has been loaning books for 230 years — the town boasts the first continuous public-lending library in the nation. It was founded in 1790 with a donation of books from Benjamin Franklin. But when the pandemic hit, like all other libraries in the state, the Franklin library closed its doors — leaving patrons like long-time resident Safdar Mahmud eagerly awaiting its return.

“I’m a teacher. … So, for me, libraries are very important,” Mahmud said. “Just to have the distinction of Franklin being one of those historical places — there’s even books in there that were sent by [Benjamin] Franklin, and some of the original books going back to the early 1700s are actually housed in there.”

Now, the Franklin library is back — at least partially. Mahmud and his two children visited earlier this week to get books via curbside pickup, which is how many libraries in the state are operating these days. Under Phase 3 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan, libraries were permitted to reopen earlier this month. Some remain closed, others are open, and many are a hybrid. Keeping everyone safe is a challenge they all face.

Sarah Sogigian, executive director of the Massachusetts Library System — which represents 1,600 member libraries in the state — said libraries are slowly getting back to business after the pandemic stopped the distribution of 15 million books and other materials statewide. And every library is opening at its own pace, Sogigian said.

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Franklin Public Library patrons borrow books through curbside pickup during limited library hours during COVID-19 pandemic.

But the underlying theme for re-opening libraries in Massachusetts reads more like a novel than a non-fiction book, with varying timelines and twists and turns on

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