Island Free Library eyes slow re-opening

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 6:45pm
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Books and magazines can have hundreds of pages. If they are checked out of the library, held and read for hours at a time, when they are returned do all the pages need to be cleaned?

That’s the kind of minutiae the staff of the Island Free Library has to think about as they prepare to slowly open up to an increase of library services, if not necessarily opening the building itself.

The Island Free Library’s Board of Trustees met online on Tuesday, May 19, to begin to hash out some of these details.

For instance, there are five publicly-used computers in the library’s front room. With 300 square feet of space needed for each patron, according to regulations put in place by the state, Baumann said the staff needed to figure out where the computers can be moved to.

“The way the public computers are configured it would be difficult to practice social distancing,” said Trustee Tom Doyle.

“We can move a lot of those computers around,” said Baumann. “We have a lot of ports in the library, some upstairs and downstairs.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Doyle.

But then Baumann said, “The difficulty is disinfecting and keeping them clean.”

“How would that be done?” asked Doyle.

“There are a lot of ideas coming around: Saran-wrapping the keyboards. Purchasing keyboards and mouses and switching them out with use. That’s still all being decided,” said Baumann.

“Who is deciding all that?” asked Trustee Chair Lisa Nolan.

“The state office is looking at all that. This is being decided at the state level. It’ll be a matter of cost and feasibility and what we can handle,” said Baumann. “It’s a lot. It’s cumbersome. It’s a lot of minutiae.”

Baumann described the process of opening the building itself as “very slow. Very.”

While the building will not be open during Phase 1 of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s business reopening plan, even in Phase 2 it “will be a very limited opening. The building will be closed but services will be happening. It’ll be limited staff for a while and we will have a system to have items quarantined for 72 hours before we clean and wipe them and send them back outside curbside.” Baumann added, “There’s a ton of things we have to figure out on so many levels.”

“It sounds terribly complex,” said Doyle.

“With library materials, they are going to come back to the library so how do you clean them and prepare them to go out again?” said Baumann. Thats a very dangerous issue at this point in time.”

Browsing for a book to read may also be different going forward.

Library associations “don’t think anyone will ever go into the stacks again,” said Baumann. “They’re way too confined.” At the Island Free Library, “maybe the main floor collections are browsable. The reading room is browsable.”

Baumann said library directors are being advised to “take it slow. Keep your eyes on each phase. Stay in the phase you’re in. Figure it out. It’s too much to look at all at once. Don’t let it overwhelm you. That’s what we’ve been advised, because it’s a lot.”

“I’m incredibly impressed with how much you are dealing with,” said Trustee Willie Feuer. Baumann said the library will start curbside delivery on June 2.