About Us

Our COVID-19 Response

September 1, 2020

This is the text of the message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters for our September 1 newsletter.

Dear members,

Each evening, as many of you probably do also, I read Governor Cuomo’s daily email, chronicling New York State’s progress fighting COVID-19. Little by little, as the coronavirus numbers in New York City and around the state improve, and the local institutions we love announce plans to open their doors again, it feels as if we just might be moving towards something resembling normalcy. Here at the Library, we’ve taken a slow and cautious approach to reopening, initially providing sidewalk book pickup service, then access to the stacks and Children’s Library. On September 8, we are taking the next big step, reopening the reading and study spaces.

However, to ensure we do so as safely as possible, there will be some restrictions on use and changes to our usual procedures.

Most notably, the number of available seats will be limited to ensure appropriate social distancing and to reduce building capacity. To better manage member expectations, some spaces will require pre-booking with staggered arrival times, and others will remain first-come-first-served. Everyone must wear a mask throughout their time in the building and in all spaces (including the individual study rooms), and everyone must check in, whether they are going to the stacks, the Members’ Room, or any of the reading or study spaces (bring your Library card for fastest check-in.) Please be aware that you may be asked to wait temporarily in the entry stairwell or on the sidewalk in order to prevent overcrowding at check-in and at the elevators. All of the details about what to expect space by space are here, including how to reserve study rooms or seats. Please familiarize yourself with the new procedures prior to your arrival.

We are keeping up with the latest news and information from the CDC and health authorities about how the virus spreads, making ongoing decisions to ensure the safest environment possible for members and staff. Some of our health and safety precautions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • First and foremost, it bears constant repeating that masks covering both mouth and nose will be mandatory at all times throughout the building.
  • Gloves will be provided for members to use when handling materials.
  • Hand sanitizing stations and disposable wipes are available throughout the building.
  • Tape and signage throughout the building remind members and staff to stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.
  • The main elevator is limited to 2 people (or 1 family) at a time; the stacks elevator is limited to 1 person (or 1 family.)
  • The frequency of cleaning – bathrooms, study rooms, desks, and all high-touch surfaces – has been increased.
  • Our HVAC system runs 24/7 to control temperature and humidity for the comfort of staff and members and to safeguard our collections. We are installing Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 filters, and we continue to work with our HVAC vendor to ensure that our system is functioning effectively.

Most important, for the benefit of all, it is vital that everyone, staff and members alike, follow all health and safety guidelines: please stay home if you are sick, unwell, have a fever or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, have been in close proximate contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or have recently traveled to a state on New York State’s travel advisory list. If you are unable to visit the Library and need assistance with any Library services, for any reason, just let us know.

And if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to keep staff and members safe and healthy, while also providing as much Library access as possible.

I look forward to seeing you and hearing about what you’ve been reading this summer. I’ve just finished Emily Wilson’s extraordinary translation of The Odyssey and so I’m eager to re-watch the 2018 event recording of her visit to the Library (remember those halcyon days of Members’ Room programs?) – I encourage you all to use these last lazy days of summer to discover some of the wonderful past events you might have missed.

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org
 

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August 17, 2020

This is the text of the message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters for our August 17 newsletter.

Dear members,

Thanks to all of you who answered our brief survey to tell us your thoughts about returning to read and work and study in the building. We are glad to hear that the vast majority of you who reported that you used the reading and study spaces prior to the pandemic plan to return when those rooms reopen. The smaller number who indicated that you don’t plan to use those spaces tell us that it’s largely because you don’t feel comfortable returning to any indoor environments until there’s a vaccine. We understand, and we will continue to make our reference services available remotely and to provide book pickup service. Thanks also for all your comments, because it was heartening to hear that you approve of our reopening plans and the way that we have slowly, and cautiously, returned to operations again.

Our current plan is to reopen the reading and study spaces sometime in September, so please read our email messages and watch the website for further details. As always, feel free to reach out to me by email or by phone if you have any questions or further comments.

Happy reading,

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

 

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July 16, 2020

Dear members,

I have really enjoyed seeing so many of you picking up and returning your books on the sidewalk over the past month! Thank you for your patience during this period while we worked out our new procedures. And a most sincere thank-you to all of you who donated so generously to our Spring Appeal and who have continued to support the Library with your gifts, your membership renewals, and your lovely notes. All of us here at the Library are so touched and thankful to serve you, our wonderful community of bibliophiles.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be re-opening the building on July 27 to allow members access to the book collections in the stacks and in the Children’s Library. We will continue to be open abbreviated hours, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM daily, 7 days a week.

In this phase of reopening, members may once again browse our glorious open stacks and Children’s Library shelves for books to check out, but the reading and study spaces will not be accessible. We plan to reopen these spaces - Reference Room, Members’ Room, Whitridge Room, Little Whit, Hornblower Room, and the desks in the stacks – in a limited capacity at some future point. There will also be no access to Closed Stacks books, rare books, archives materials, current periodicals, or the online public access computers (OPACs) during this phase. So please check our catalog before you arrive, or use the handy QR code that will posted in the building to access the Library catalog on your phone.

For those who are not yet ready to come inside, we will continue with our book pickup service, so if you would like to place a hold on a book in the stacks, please email requests@nysoclib.org or call us at 212-288-6900 x211. As always, you may log in to your Library account to place holds on the most popular books. When you hear from us that your books are ready, you may pick them up from the bookshelves in the entry stairwell. We will continue to quarantine books for 3 days, so returns should continue to be placed in the marked bin. If you are sick or in a vulnerable category, please stay home and take care of yourself. Reach out to us and we will be happy to work with you to make arrangements to pick up or deliver your books. And remember – fines are still waived until further notice.

Our slow and cautious approach to reopening is to ensure the health and safety of our members and our staff, many of whom must travel quite a distance on mass transit to get to work. Our plan has been well thought out so that we can provide member services in the most manageable way while mitigating the risk of infection. Therefore, while you are in the building, we will require you to wear a mask/face and nose covering. Hand-sanitizer stations will be available in the Circulation Hall, by the stacks elevator, in the Children’s Library, and on the Fifth Floor. Signage throughout the building will remind everyone to wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay 6 feet apart as much as possible. We are providing gloves for staff and members to use while handling books, and especially request that you use them while browsing the new books shelves in the Lobby. We are limiting the number of members and staff in the building, and our new hours allow staff to travel to and from work at less busy times of day. We have installed acrylic barriers at the Circulation Desk, and have created a second checkout station in the Reference Room. Tape on the floor will mark off 6-foot distances to give you guidance. We have completely sanitized and disinfected our air-conditioning system, and we continue to work with our vendor to improve air quality and ventilation. And while we have always maintained a high level of cleanliness in the building, we have further increased our cleaning schedule and regimen. I hope that this gives you a measure of comfort as we move forward with our reopening plan.

A summary of the details of this phase of our reopening are here. I look forward to seeing you – behind a mask and from a safe 6-foot distance! Feel free to email me directly if you have any questions at all. 

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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June 17, 2020

This is the text of the video message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters about our re-opening on June 22, 2020. The video can be found here.

Hello everyone! I can’t tell you how excited I am to be recording this video, after 3 long months, right here in front of our beautiful building. And that can only mean one thing: we are reopening! Beginning on Monday, June 22, we will be open 7 days a week for sidewalk pickups and returns, from 11am to 4pm.

I want to give you a little preview of what this will be like. First, you may return books here at our Service Door, beginning on Monday, June 22. Just place your books in the return bin. But remember, we will be quarantining returned books for anywhere from 3 days to up to a week, so you may still see them on your member account for a while. But don’t worry, we are not charging fines.

Second, if you have placed holds on books, please wait to come visit us until you hear from us that your books are ready to be picked up. Someone will contact you by email or phone this week and will let you know your pickup date. As a reminder, if you’d like to check out some books, you can log in to your Library account and put holds on them online, you can email us at requests@nysoclib.org or you can call us at 212-288-6900 x211. For help with online access, email help@nysoclib.org.
On or after your assigned pickup date, stop by during our open hours. Your books will be bagged up with your name and your pickup date on a table outside the Library. If the weather is less than perfect, the tables will be placed just inside the glass doors. If you are not able to pick up your books on or soon after your assigned date or no longer want the books, just let us know. And when you visit us, please wear a mask and remain behind the 6 ft markers on the sidewalk if there are other members already waiting to pick up their books.

And while we are so eager to see all of you, if you are sick or in a vulnerable category, please stay home and take care of yourself. Reach out to us and we will make arrangements to pick up and/or deliver your books.

Also, I ask that you please be patient with us as we begin our reopening. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our staff and for all of you, so we are taking this one step at a time. As I’ve mentioned in previous communications, in future phases, we’ll gradually allow you back into the building to access the stacks, and eventually, for limited access to reading and study spaces.

Feel free to email me directly if you have any questions at all.  See you next week. I may or may not be sitting in a lawn chair outside the building.

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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June 1 2020

This is the text of the video message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters for our June newsletter. The video can be found here.

Hello everyone. It is now 78 days since we closed the Library building. We are still not yet sure of the exact date that we will re-open, but I feel certain that we are getting close. I’m sure that you are following the news about New York City’s re-opening plans as closely as I am. Word from the Governor’s and the Mayor’s offices is that the city might begin Phase 1 as soon as June 8th. We’re a unique institution, though, and at this point, don’t exactly know where we fit in the state’s phasing plan, so we’ve petitioned the appropriate government authorities to get some guidance.

In the meantime, I want to let you know in a little more detail what our plans are when we do open our doors. Our re-opening will be slow and gradual, in order to allow us to assess the risks, ensure that appropriate health and safety measures in place, and work out the kinks in our new procedures. Initially, we plan to open only for curbside, or more precisely sidewalk book checkouts and returns. You can, right now, if you wish, place holds on books online or email us at requests@nysoclib.org, and once we actually return to the building, you’ll also be able to call us to request books. We’ll give you a pickup date when you can stop by to get your books, which will be packaged up for you and available on a cart or bookcase just inside the glass doors. We will require you to wear a mask and remain six feet apart from staff and fellow members. We’ll have a bin for returns at our service door, but don’t be surprised if your books are not checked back in right away – we plan to quarantine the books for potentially up to 72 hours once they’re returned.  In future phases of our re-opening, as city and state guidance allows, we’ll begin to open up our Circulation Hall and the stacks to you, and then eventually, the reading and study spaces.

The staff have been and continue to be here to support you, providing a wide range of e-books, magazines, programs, and research support. And we want to thank all of you who have followed member Stacy Schiff’s brilliant rallying cry and who have donated to the Spring Appeal and renewed your memberships. Thank you so very much! But we need more of you to help us get back to business at 53 East 79th Street. Only 30% of you have been renewing and it’s not enough to sustain us. We really need you. Please donate what you can and please renew.  And remember that when you do renew, the weeks of the Library’s closure will be added to the duration of your membership.

For updates, keep an eye on your email and our COVID-19 Response Page.  

Email help@nysoclib.org if you need any online assistance. Email requests@nysoclib.org to place holds on books. And email me at cwaters@nysoclib.org if you have any questions or just want to say hello and tell me what you’re reading. I’m looking forward to welcoming you back to the building very soon.

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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May 2, 2020

This is the text of the video message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters for our May newsletter. The video can be found here.

Hello again. It’s been 5 weeks since I last spoke with you, and 7 since we closed the Library building. I hope you are all safe and healthy, and finding inspiring ways to occupy yourself while we all shelter in place. The staff and I have been busy running the Library remotely – and I hope that you’ve taken advantage of some of our virtual offerings – by reading an e-book or a digital magazine, participating in a workshop or reading seminar, watching a lecture, or even hanging out with your fellow members at digital teatime. Peri and Simen in our Cataloging Department have designed a very fun New York Society Library Bingo game to help you pass the time. I hope you’ll check it out on our website.

We still don’t know when we will be able to reopen the building. We are waiting for further guidance from state and local authorities. But we are making plans for our return and I want to stress that things will be different. We think that the best way to begin bringing back in-person services and to ensure the health and safety of our staff and members, is to phase in services and programs over time. For instance, accommodating only curb-side book checkout and returns and local delivery and pickups in phase 1, introducing lobby and stacks access in phase 2, and then limited access to reading and study spaces after that.

These initial plans could change, but we are actively working on our various options and details for every phase of our reopening so we will be ready to go. In the meantime, due dates have been extended, fines are being waived, and when you renew, we will be extending your membership. We continue to add events, so read the e-news and follow us on social media. And Acquisitions is keeping up with new book releases, so check out the new books list and add titles to your holds list for when we reopen.

I’ve heard it said on a number of occasions, how unprecedented this time is. But the Library is 266 years old, and this is our 4th closing for circumstances outside our control. You all know about the American Revolution, but what about the 1803 yellow fever epidemic, or the closing due to a coal shortage during WWI? So, as an institution, we’ve been through hard times before, and we will survive.  But we do need your help. The closing has already had a sharp, negative impact our bottom line. So I’d like to ask you to please renew your membership when it expires, and if you can, consider supporting the Library with a donation. Every bit helps.

Please email help@nysoclib.org if you need any online assistance. And I’ll continue to keep you updated on our plans for our reopening. We are all anxious to get back to 53 East 79th Street. In the meantime, please feel free to email me at cwaters@nysoclib.org with any questions or comments. Please stay safe. We’ll see you soon.

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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March 31, 2020 

This is the text of the video message from Head Librarian Carolyn Waters for our April newsletter. The video can be found here

Hello, everyone. As you may have suspected, I’m recording this message from my home office, where I’ve been keeping in touch with the Library staff as well as with many of you for the past two weeks. I want you to know that we all miss you terribly and we can’t wait till the day we are able to reopen.

At this time, the Library building remains closed indefinitely while we wait for further information and guidance from government authorities. But the virtual New York Society Library is open for business. The staff and I have been working hard to ensure your continued access to services and programs while adding new ways to deliver them.

Sara, Katie, and Marialuisa in Events have had to cancel some events and postpone others to future dates. But we are also moving many online via the Zoom platform. If you were already registered for events, they will be in touch soon to discuss the options. I hope you’ll join us for a special version of Teatime on Friday, April 3 at 3pm on Zoom. And no worries if you’re unfamiliar with Zoom – we are here to help you.

On the books side, Steve and Patrick are still busy buying books, including adding new e-books to the Cloud Library, so I encourage you to check that out. Our virtual Library also includes digital magazines like Condé Nast Traveler, Film Comment, and The Spectator, as well as a whole host of electronic databases.

If you’re looking to read about books or other topics of interest to Library members, visit our blog on our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

For those of you concerned about overdue books: don’t be! Mia and her Circulation team have extended the due date for all books to April 13. If necessary, that will be extended further, and we’ll be waiving all fines during this period.

And I want to let you know that when you renew your membership, Diane will be extending your expiration date for the amount of time that the Library remains closed, however long that turns out to be. This extension will affect all renewals from March 16, 2020 to March 15, 2021.

But we do need your help. Please consider supporting the Library with a donation, if you can. And please do renew your membership when it expires. We won’t be able to send renewal notices at this time, but you can check your status, renew, and make donations online – AND you’ll be able to continue to use all of our wonderful online resources.

Please feel free to email help@nysoclib.org if you need any online assistance, or email me directly with any questions or comments. Please stay safe. We’re all looking forward to seeing you soon.

Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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March  20, 2020

Dear Members,

I promised to keep you informed if and when I had further news to share. 

I have just learned that one of our members who spent time in the Library has been diagnosed with COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus. The member, who attended a writing group meeting in the Little Whitridge Room (“Little Whit”) on February 26, is being treated.

The other Library members who were in direct contact with this member have already been notified. No other members or staff have reported that they are experiencing any symptoms. The building is already undergoing cleaning and disinfecting this week, which had previously been planned to occur during our closure.

As a reminder, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, immediately contact your primary care physician and please also notify me if you had spent any time at the Library. More information can be found on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Stay well,
Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org

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March 16, 2020, 9:00 AM

Dear Members,

By now, you know: the Library is closed today through Tuesday, March 31. Could it be longer? Yes. Please continue to check our website and social media for updates. We will also be in touch by email when we have further news. Just a note that as of 3/16, our phone lines are down.

In the meantime, we encourage you to investigate all you can do remotely. Our Electronic Resources page is full of information about how to access e-books, audiobooks, digital magazines, and reference  materials. Our Events Department has archived all of our past event recordings here. If you need any assistance accessing our online resources, please email help@nysoclib.org.

Please feel free to be in touch with me directly. Stay safe, stay healthy! We look forward to seeing you soon.

best,
Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org
212-288-6900 x244

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March 13, 2020, 3:30 PM

Dear Members,

Having gotten used to getting only one email a month from us, getting three in one week (two in one day!) must be disorienting. But these are strange times.

Like most of our fellow libraries and institutions, we have just made the difficult decision to close the Library entirely to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Library will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31. 

We will remain open our usual hours this weekend, 11 AM - 5 PM, so that you may come in and check out books. We know what a balm a good book can be, and want to make sure you can stock up for the weeks we will be closed. However, please note that only the stacks will be accessible; the reading and writing spaces will be closed.  

We are sure you will agree that this is the right thing to do to ensure the health and safety of our community. If you have any questions, please do let me know. And I look forward to hearing what books kept you company in the weeks ahead.   

Best,
Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org
212-288-6900 x244

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March 13, 2020, 10 AM

Dear Members,

I wrote to you just a few days ago - but what a few days it's been. I want to keep you updated on our continuing response to COVID-19.

For at least the next month, all of our planned events have been canceled or postponed to a later date.

Our hours for the next two weeks, beginning on Monday, March 16, will be amended as follows in order to allow our staff to commute on less crowded trains and buses: Monday & Friday 10 AM - 4 PM, Tuesday - Thursday 10 AM - 8 PM, Saturday & Sunday 11 AM - 5 PM.

We have removed half of the chairs in the Hornblower Room and additional chairs in the Whitridge Room and Little Whit in order to provide appropriate social distancing. The desks in the stacks remain a viable option. We will be monitoring the occupancy of the Members' Room frequently.

We are continuing our cleaning protocol to wipe down high-touch surfaces several times a day, and we have provided disposable wipes throughout the building. I urge you to follow the guidelines from health authorities and wash your hands frequently, don't touch your face, monitor your health more closely, and please, stay home if you are sick or not feeling well.

Please continue to check our website for updates, as we may make further changes to our operating schedule or plans, as needed. But remember, you don't need to visit our building to make use of all of our great resources: download an e-book, read a digital magazine, do research, view a recording of one of our past events!  As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions or concerns.

Best,
Carolyn

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
cwaters@nysoclib.org
212-288-6900 x244

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March 9, 2020

Dear Members,

No doubt you are following the news of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as carefully as we are. To keep everyone safe, we want to update you on what measures we are taking to ensure the continued health of our staff, members, and visitors.

We will remain open during regular hours and all events will go on as planned. We are increasing the frequency of cleaning in the building, especially the high-touch areas, and have provided disposable wipes throughout. We also ask everyone to please follow the guidelines from the NYC Health Department for protecting yourself and others from spreading respiratory illnesses, like the flu and coronavirus. Most importantly, please stay home if you’re sick or feeling unwell!

We will continue to monitor the news and recommendations from local, state and federal authorities, and will make decisions and communicate to everyone as the situation evolves. We encourage you to check our website for updates. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

…and while I have your attention, just a reminder that our sidewalk replacement project will begin in the next day or so and take approximately one week. While we will remain open throughout, please be prepared for noise and some disruption.

Stay healthy!

Carolyn Waters
Head Librarian
212-288-6900 x244

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