Starting in May, the library will be open during the week until 9 p.m. and on the weekends until 5 p.m. By MADDY VITALESince the pandemic, the Ocean City Free Public Library (OCFPL) has remained a center of activity, albeit through virtual means for programming, speedy curbside pickup and shortened library hours.But with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines prompting more and more people to get vaccinated, the world appears to be opening up.On Monday during a Zoom meeting, the OCFPL Board of Trustees announced that after a year of abbreviated hours of operation, the library will be staying open longer beginning on May 10.The expanded library hours are as follows: Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Curbside hours will continue.OCFPL Director Karen Mahar explained that in keeping with strict health and safety protocols, employees will spend an hour sanitizing and preparing the library to open for patrons each morning.Mahar said that both she and her management staff are “all on board” with the longer hours of operation.“We feel it is time and we are ready,” she said. “I know the administration and the city would like to see that, too.”She added that the library has complied with the governor’s capacity limits and remains under the allowable number of people in the building at any given time.“We increased the number of people to 100 in the library – not the maximum of 35 percent,” Mahar said of the allowable limits.While people can come in and select their items, there will still be a host of virtual programming.Mahar added that patrons do not stay long and just come in to get their books and other resources before leaving.Despite the extension of hours, she noted that there will not be in-person programming allowed anytime soon, given the current capacity limits.However, virtual programming, which has been a popular attraction at the library throughout the pandemic, will continue into the foreseeable future, she said.“We will still continue all of our virtual programming, which we feel is a huge success,” Mahar said. “We get hundreds of people in our programs.”In other matters, the renovation grant for the library’s second floor was a topic of discussion.Mahar announced that the library, with the assistance of the city, will resubmit for a grant through the state Library Bond Construction Act.The grant would help fund the library’s estimated $1.3 million renovation project on the second floor.Back in December 2020, Mahar announced that the grant proposal submitted by the city for the money was not approved.“The first round of the Library Bond Construction Act grant awardees came out and we were not on the list,” she had said.The city had already bonded for the project to renovate, update and expand the library’s second floor and it will be done with or without the grants, officials have emphasized.The building is over 30 years old. Here is a link to the project’s rendering: https://ocnjdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/library-renovation-rendering-2.pdfThe second round of grant applications is due into the state the first week of June.Vince Bekier, the city’s director of operations and engineering, and Rachel Ballezzi, also of the engineering department, will resubmit the grant proposal to the state library, Mahar said.“We will be resubmitting the grant proposal then,” Mahar said. “There is the second round now and we were able to apply for it.”For more information about the Ocean City Free Public Library, visit www.oceancitylibrary.orgThe library is located in the Community Center at 1735 Simpson Ave.