If you have a stack of overdue library books still sitting around your house from mid-March, now is the time to head to the library drop box. Portland District Library shared their plans to reopen in response to a request from the Beacon recently. The announcement comes after Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-110 on June 1st that says among other things that libraries may open starting June 8th subject to the same restrictions as retail businesses. The Beacon reached out to library director Cory Grimminck for details.
According to Grimminick, the library will be reopening in phases beginning with resuming curbside pickup of library materials on June 8th. Patrons can order their favorite books, movies, and music using the library website. During this time, fines are not being enforced, but will begin accumulating again once patrons are allowed back into the library in person. Grimminick says they plan on allowing patrons into the building in person within the next few weeks as soon as they are able to get all their new safety measures put into place. Those measures will include limiting the building to 50 patrons at a time, social distancing of 6 feet, and rearranged furniture. Computer use will be limited due to every other computer being closed to aid in social distancing, and patrons will be limited to 30 minutes of computer use per day. Additionally, all patrons will be required to wear a mask to enter the library and will be provided with one at the door if they need one.
The library will also be taking steps to enhance cleaning, including returned materials. “We'll be using a disinfectant wipe on everything that it is possible to use one on, and we will be quarantining the books for 72 hours,” Grimminick says. Other surfaces are not easily cleaned which means that most of the toys, puzzles and games in the children’s department will be put away for the time being. While the most up to date CDC guidance says that infections from touching contaminated surfaces are not the primary means by which COVID-19 is spread, Grimminick” says they are, “...going with the "It's better to be safe than sorry" idea!”
Library staff are still working on plans for public events. “Obviously we can't have the sort of large, 500-person events that we are known for at first, and we've already had to cancel our Summer Reading kick-off. We're all working on ways to still provide fun and enriching programs without squishing a bunch of people into the same space. At the moment, we're anticipating that this will involve a lot of streaming and recorded content, a creative use of outdoor space, and some tweaking of the sorts of programs we offer.” Public meeting space used by outside groups will be available subject to library policy and state regulations on group size.
While many businesses and public institutions have faced a financial crunch from lost revenue, Grimminick said that the library is anticipated to weather this storm due to stable funding from property tax income. “We are so unbelievably lucky to have had such strong support for our millage renewal and 0.3 mil increase a few years ago. This goes a long way toward providing some stability to our funding, and allows us to better weather some of the shortfalls that are inevitable in times like this,” she said. The library does anticipate a fall in funding from the county penal fines due to fewer drivers on the streets and law enforcement issuing fewer traffic citations. Despite that Grimminick is confident in the ability of the library staff to respond to financial constraints creatively.
While community members will be eager to return to the library, like nearly every other public place it will look, and feel different for the foreseeable future. While Grimminick anticipates the last phase of reopening--getting back to “normal” will take quite some time, she emphasised that, “we are very much looking forward to welcoming [the community] back into the library, and we thank [everyone] in advance for their understanding as we work through this process.” If you have and questions or concerns, you can contact Library Director Cory Grimminick at firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO: Jordan D. Smith