Library buildings are allowed to reopen, but that won’t happen until at least mid-June in Carmel 


According to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to lift restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public libraries are allowed to reopen as part of Stage 2, which began May 4 in most of the state. In Carmel and surrounding cities, however, libraries don’t plan to open their buildings to the public for awhile.

Carmel Clay Public Library Director Bob Swanay said he’d rather open the building safely and efficiently than do it too quickly.

“Part of our calculus was talking to our community partners, including other libraries in Hamilton County and across the state, and trying to make a determination of what we thought would be the best service we could provide in the safest context possible,” he said. “We decided that the reasonable initial priority for us is pickup service.”

CCPL plans to launch curbside pickup service by the time Indiana enters Stage 3 of the governor’s plan, currently set for May 24, although the service could begin earlier, Swanay said.

Carmel librarians are back at work cataloguing the thousands of items that have been returned during the building’s closure, which began March 15, and determining the best way to run the pickup service.

“We’ll make sure when we launch it, it will be the best and most efficient experience we can give our patrons,” Swanay said.

Several other libraries are planning to launch a curbside pickup service before reopening their buildings, including the Westfield Washington Public Library and the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville.

It might take a bit longer than normal for a hold to become available during this stage, as the library plans to quarantine returned books for 72 hours before allowing them to be checked out again. This should ensure any coronaviruses present on returned material will not be infective when the item reenters circulation.

Swanay said limited access to the library building will likely occur when the state enters Stage 4 of the governor’s plan, currently set for June 14. However, he said that — and all stages of the library’s reopening plan — could easily change.

“We’re going to be taking cues from the state and local health departments and local officials,” Swanay said. “If we’re advised that we need to hold course or roll back, we need to be prepared to be flexible. On the other hand, if everything goes really well and we stay on track, then we’ll continue to ramp up services as much as we feel we can appropriately do so.”

CCPL plans to launch its annual summer reading program on June 1 regardless of which reopening stage it is in. For the first time this year, the program will be completely digital for the first time. Learn more about the summer reading program at

The library has remained busy during the building’s closure. It increased digital offerings or checkout limits on Overdrive, Hoopla and Kanopy, and it launched a new website and search catalog in April.

The library building could close again later this year, and not because of the COVID-19 pandemic. CCPL is in the midst of a $40 million renovation project that includes increased space for programs and the addition of a parking garage. Swanay said he is continuing to search for a temporary location for the main branch, which would allow construction to proceed much more quickly than if it is done with patrons still in the building.

Swanay said the library hasn’t been able to begin renovations during the COVID-19 closure because the project is still in the design phase.

“If we were in a different (stage of the renovation project) we could’ve taken a little greater advantage (of the closure),” he said. “We haven’t been able to take advantage of it, but it also hasn’t slowed anything yet.”