'It's been hard': Black Mountain Public Library preparing to reopen to the public

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Public Library reopened for curbside pickup on May 26.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Melisa Pressley admits that she and her staff were apprehensive about reopening the Black Mountain Public Library.

After closing March 17, the staff returned to the library May 11 to set up curbside pickup for customers on May 26. Following Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to move the state into Phase 2.5 of its three-phase reopening plan, branch manager Pressley says she’s ready to have people back into the library.

“We were apprehensive,” Pressley said. “I think everybody is, just to see what’s going to happen. When a flu season is kind of coming into the picture and as the weather’s changing, but we do look forward to seeing people again.”

Not being able to see regular visitors has been difficult for the staff.

“It’s been hard for us because I feel like, of all the county departments, ours is kind of the most intimate,” Pressley said. “We really get to know our patrons and get to know our families.”

The library has a cleaning company come in each day, with the library staff cleaning hard surfaces every two hours. Complemented with webinars and online discussions, Pressley says staff are adjusting to a new normal.

After closing in March, full-time staff with the library were sent elsewhere. Pressley served with a 911 call center handling non-emergency calls. Another staff member worked with the Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministry, a nonprofit organization, handling food distribution.

Now back together and in her 15th year with the libary, Pressley is looking forward to reconnecting with regulars.

“There’s still some that we have not heard from, but we wonder how they’re doing,” Pressley said.

Though not being able to open its doors to the public, Pressley says the library has been successful with its webinar series.

“It’s been good,” Pressley said. “It’s also been a real huge learning curve, I think, for all of us because that’s something we weren’t doing at all.”

She hopes to return to in-person programming, but with the success of the online series, she also hopes to continue virtual programming.

“The response to some of our programs has gone so well that I kind of hope that we continue offering virtual programs even once we’re open to in-person programming again,” Pressley said. “We’ll see.”

The first priority is returning the library to a normal routine with regular patrons.

“It’s been so difficult to not see them every day or be able to reach out to them,” Pressley said. “It’s been hard on us.”