WESTCHESTER, N.Y. – With more than a dozen schools closed in Westchester and Rockland due to coronavirus, parents are finding themselves working from home; still others are scrambling to find a place to work as companies have closed their doors and encourage teleworking.
Not all remote situations are conducive to working, however.
Right now, co-working places and libraries can be an alternative.
Terry Kirchner, executive director of the Westchester Library System, made up of 38 public libraries, said all public libraries, except the one in the containment area in New Rochelle, are currently open.
“I think one of the challenges for everyone is really balancing personal health with the need to be productive in terms of the work that they need to do,” said Kirchner.
While the attendance for library programs has been down, the number of people looking for quiet space to get work done has been up, Kirchner said.
Kirchner, who noted that all libraries have been proactive in trying to keep surfaces clean, pointed to the many library resources people can take advantage of.
“I think this is also a great opportunity for individuals who are finding themselves at home to rediscover all the electronic resources, the e-book, audio books and movies that are available at no additional cost,” he said.
Grace Riario, executive director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System, which serves public libraries in Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and southern Ulster counties, said she was expecting to see an increase in the number of people coming to utilize the spaces for work.
“That’s what happened during Hurricane Katrina,”she said.
As for now, the online offerings have proven to be popular.
“Our online resources are being utilized the most. There are a lot of people that are staying home, especially children,” said Riario. “So we are seeing a lot of our e content, such as eBooks, online newspapers and magazines being accessed remotely.”
Christy Knell, co-founder of HudCo, a co-working space in Dobbs Ferry, which offers memberships that start at $120 per month, said a few members have started asking to bring their spouses who are working from home as guests.
“So far so good. From the look of the space, we’re still business as usual, and our data suggests that the number of people coming each day is still around the same,” said Knell.
Knell hopes to keep the 9,000-square-foot space overlooking the Hudson River open and safety has been a priority.
“We’ve added signs around reminding people to wash their hands well,” said Knell. “And we’re doing more frequent disinfecting of common areas throughout the day.”
Lorraine Ash, who edits and ghostwrites books, drives from her home in Allendale in Bergen County to CILK119, a co-working space in Nanuet, five times a week.
Ash said she wasn’t planning to do anything different.
“My office mates are conscientious. Clients continue to meet me at the space,” said Ash. “And we’re all well.”
Donna Miele, owner of CILK119 in Nanuet said members were coming to work as usual.
“So far our paying members have not let their memberships lapse,” said Miele, who added that ”we have always followed cleaning procedures consistent with preventing the spread of viral infections such as COVID-19, the common cold, and the flu.”
A company policy on groups meeting at the space is being considered.
“Already, a book club has rescheduled on its own; and the writing circles I run have canceled through April 3,” she said. “While there is a lot of fear bubbling up in social media, I don’t believe that the organizers of these groups have canceled due to fear, but to an honest evaluation of the risks.”
Editor’s note: With news on coronavirus changing rapidly, it’s best to call ahead before heading to the library or a co-working space to see if policies have changed or if programs have been cancelled or postponed.
Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy covers women and power for the USA Today Network Northeast. Write to her at [email protected]