ITHACA, N.Y. –– After months of closing its doors to the public due to COVID-19, the Tompkins County Public Library announced this week that it will reopen on a limited basis next month and allow guests inside for “express browsing.”

“Through virtual programming, ebooks, curbside and in-lobby pick-up, the library has remained open,” Library Director Annette Birdsall said. “We are adding services such as internet access and express browsing to continue to meet the needs of our community— safely.” 

Starting Dec. 1, the express browsing service will allow patrons to select their own items for checkout. Browsing sessions are limited to 30 minutes, and patrons will be asked to maintain 6 feet of social distancing and use hand sanitizer before and after touching items. Masks covering the nose and mouth are required for entrance into the TCPL building.

To ensure public safety while enjoying the library, TCPL is following New York State coronavirus protocols limiting the number of patrons allowed to be inside at any given time. If anything changes, TCPL will post the latest information on their website at or through its social media including FacebookInstagram, and Twitter feeds. 

Express Browsing will be limited to in-lobby days and hours: Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 and 2 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Through December, TCPL will be opening one hour earlier during Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sessions. 

For safety reasons, returns must be made in the open outside bins on Green Street or the one by the south-side entrance. Due to the 72-hour quarantine requirement for materials, no items can be brought into the building or returned to staff. Patrons are asked to keep this in mind while they plan their trip to TCPL.

“We are excited to welcome you back to the stacks!” Birdsall said. 

More information is available online here. Additionally, any questions can be sent to

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at