Reopening by the Book

Foreword | Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Borrow by the Book. July 8, 2020

As we continue to process a steady stream of the 20,000 items that were out in the community when we closed, the library is pleased to announce that we are training staff to turn the page to the next chapter of our reopening, contactless pickup of items placed on hold. Here’s how it will work:

  • Beginning July 8, you can place a hold on most library materials in the online catalog.
  • When your items are available for pickup, you will receive a notification via email or phone.
  • The notification will instruct you on how to make a reservation for pickup.
  • The pickup location will be the Sylvia Beach Way sidewalk near the rear entrance to the library.
  • When you arrive at the pickup area, please call 609-924-9529, ext. 1210 to notify staff, then join the line that forms toward Wiggins Street, maintaining social distancing.
  • Library staff will bring your materials to the pickup table.
  • Pickup times will be weekdays, 10 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon. No pickups will be scheduled for Sundays

A few important things to note about this new process:

  • Please wear a mask when picking up your materials and observe social distancing protocols while in line.
  • Cardholders who placed holds in March prior to our closing will have the first opportunity to pick up materials.
  • While we work through the March orders, cardholders placing orders on July 8 can expect a delay of at least three business days before being offered a pickup time.
  • We will not be accepting returns at the pickup table. Continue to return materials at the book drops on Sylvia Beach Way or to the bin on Hinds Plaza.
  • The Sands Library Building will remain closed to the public throughout this phase.
  • The library will not be validating parking for Spring Street Garage. However, 30 minutes of free parking is available for those parking in the garage.

Chapter 2 includes an exciting new development for cardholders, the circulation of wireless hotspots for those needing access to high speed internet. Circulation of these items will require an additional form to be completed at the time of pickup.

With Chapter 2 getting under way, please know that staff are hard at work on Chapter 3, when we will reopen the Sands Library Building at limited capacity for resumption of some in-person services. This plan will be submitted for approval by the library’s Board of Trustees before we set a date. The board has made it clear that the health and safety of the public and staff will be of utmost concern when deciding on any reopening plan.

Chapter 1: Returns by the Book, June 24, 2020

Our phased reopening begins June 24, when library customers can begin returning materials borrowed prior to the March 13 closure of the Sands Library Building due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The return of materials is the first of two phases approved by the library’s Board of Trustees on June 19 after Gov. Phil Murphy amended his executive order to allow limited library operations. Phase 2, a date for which has not been set, will involve the contactless pickup of library materials placed on hold.

More than 20,000 books, audiobooks, DVDs and music CDs have been out on loan while the library has been closed. To deal with the sudden surge in returns, and to ensure the safety of the public and staff, the library developed a plan centering on the library at 65 Witherspoon Street and the sidewalk off Sylvia Beach Way:

  • Returns can be made to the book and AV drops on Sylvia Beach Way, the one-way lane behind the library building.
  • A bin will be placed under a tent outside the library Community Room doors on Hinds Plaza 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to accept returns from those who walk up to the building. 
  • Book drops at Princeton Shopping Center and Palmer Square will remain closed until further notice. 
  • Book drops and bins will be emptied throughout the day and evenings and weekends.
  • Special arrangements are being made for those who have 30 or more items checked out on a single card or by multiple members of a household.
  • All items currently on loan have a due date of July 15. Extended use fees will begin accruing on July 16.
  • Once returned, materials will remain in quarantine in the Community Room for a minimum of 72 hours, in accordance with guidelines developed by the American Library Association.
  • Returned items will remain on the cardholder’s account during the quarantine period. Items will be backdated upon check-in to reflect the date that they were actually returned.
  • The library will not accept book donations until further notice.

Preface: June 15, 2020

To the Princeton Community,

We were pleased to learn that Gov. Phil Murphy has amended his executive order concerning the reopening of public libraries in New Jersey and will allow contactless pickup of library materials beginning June 15. Since the day we closed the Sands Library Building in March, staff have been working thoughtfully and creatively on a multiphase reopening plan, which we’re calling “Reopening by the Book.” The first two phases will be presented for consideration to the Board of Trustees on Wednesday, June 17. Board members have been clear that their priority in considering any plan to reopen will be the health and safety of the public and our staff.

Developed by Senior Staff, then reviewed by all staff members and the municipal health officer, the first two phases of the plan allow for the return of materials on loan, followed by contactless pickup of items from the physical collection. If approved by the board on June 17, the library will use the following week to prepare the building and train staff to execute Phase 1, which involves the return of materials borrowed prior to the March 13 closing of the Sands Library Building. No late fees will be incurred. Once returned, materials will remain in quarantine for three days in compliance with American Library Association guidelines before being returned to the shelves.

As materials are returned and processed, the library will move to Phase 2, contactless circulation of physical objects from the library collection to members of the public, who will be able to order items online and arrange with library staff to pick up materials at a designated time. Staff will be required to wear personal protective equipment whenever working inside or outside the building during Phases 1 and 2.

As these and additional phases of the plan are approved by the board, detailed information will be available at

We’ve appreciated the kind words of those who expressed gratitude for the ongoing services offered at Virtual Princeton Public Library. Our staff has gone above and beyond in enhancing online services during a time of crisis. As we begin the long and deliberate transition back into our physical space, the virtual library will remain more important than ever and will provide a platform for possible future expansion of online library services. No one appreciates (and wan
ts to share) physical books more than library staff, but during times when that is not possible, we are fortunate to have an abundance of digital resources at our disposal.

While we welcome Gov. Murphy’s amending the executive order that kept the Sands Library Building closed for three months, we will not rush to resume services. Rather, we will proceed cautiously, informed by the best practices of our peer institutions, the advice of the Princeton Health Dept. and the guidance of our Board of Trustees. We thank you for your patience while we implement a plan specifically tailored for Princeton.

— Jennifer Podolsky
Executive Director

Foreword: April 2020

During this unprecedented time, more people are realizing what we’ve known for a long time: a library is more than just a building or a collection of physical objects. At its core, a library is about people; in our case, it is about the people of Princeton.

It was with heavy hearts, but a sense of tremendous responsibility, that we closed the Sands Library Building on March 13. Our service to Princeton did not end that day. Rather, we’ve been reimagining our services every day since. We’re collaborating with the town on a website with Princeton-specific information on COVID-19. We redesigned our website to make it easier for you to connect with our digital resources. Our staff has been working with our vendors to enhance those digital services. Staff have also been working every weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (till 7 p.m. Thursdays) answering questions via chat, email and phone at 314-635-0410. We’re once again hosting a wide range of events (author events, book discussions, film programs, English conversation classes, technology education, and story times)
using a variety of digital tools.

Like you, our staff is eager to return to the Sands Library Building so we can provide more than virtual services. While we don’t know when we will be able to reopen the building, you should know that I am in regular discussions with our trustees and senior staff about how we will reopen in the safest possible manner.

Meanwhile, we ask that you keep any materials you have borrowed in your home until we reopen. Our book drops remain closed and all late fees have been waived. We know this is a busy season for book donations, but we ask that you hold onto any books to be donated until reopening. Please do not leave books for donation outside the building. We simply cannot accept any book donations at this time.

This an incredibly difficult time for everyone. Please know that, through it all, we are with you every day, providing virtual library services until we see each other again.

— Jennifer Podolsky
Executive Director