By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Public Library will continue curbside pick-up of library materials through June and will expand the curbside hours along with allowing use of the computers by appointment beginning June 1.
The library must “pause” before re-opening and not return back to normal hours until the logistics of opening have been worked out, said Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library, at the Colfax Public Library Board’s May 19 meeting.
The Colfax Public Library Board met remotely using the online platform, Zoom.
The Colfax library has been closed since March 19 because of the highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus. The Colfax Public Library Board voted to close the library, although the state Department of Health Services issued an order that closed all libraries in the state shortly after the library board voted on closing.
Hurlburt said she was recommending the library re-open in July “with adaptations.”
The Indianhead Federated Library System (IFLS) will be issuing maximum occupancy limits for each library in the system, and Colfax may only be able to have one or two patrons at a time in the library since the available space in the Colfax library is so limited, she said.
The limited available work space behind the counter in the library most likely also will mean the library director and the youth services librarian, Jolene Albricht, may not be able to work the same hours, Hurlburt said, noting that when one of them is working at the library, the other could be working from home.
“I’m not in a rush to open yet. We have work to do first,” she said.
When the library is open again, the library may be available by appointment, or there could be a combination of appointments for the computers with walk-in patrons, although a limited number of walk-ins, Hurlburt said.
Hurlburt said playing games on the computers may have to be off limits or limited to only one 30-minute period per day.
The computers will have to be sanitized after each user, she noted.
If people are scheduled to use the library by appointment, then the library could be sanitized in between users. Doorknobs, tables and other surfaces, along with the bathrooms in the municipal building, will have be sanitized several times a day, Hurlburt said.
Olivia Landon, who is vice president of the library board and who conducted the May 19 meeting, pointed out some library patrons have no computer or Internet access at home and use the library computers to pay their bills or to complete other tasks, such as applying for jobs.
The adults have important uses for the computers and do not need the kids tying up the access all day playing games, said Eve Suckow, library board member.
Other library board members noted that some adults like to play games on computers, too.
Hurlburt said in recent weeks, people have called the library with “emergency situations.” One person was trying to apply for disability and did not have a computer or Internet access, so Hurlburt said she let that person into the library to use a computer.
The library also must have an emergency response plan to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak in the community or if a staff member becomes ill, along with a provision for an emergency closing of the library, Hurlburt said, adding that she would work on writing the plan and would have it ready for the library board’s consideration at the June meeting.
Complying with the rules is essential, even from just a workers’ compensation standpoint, said Claudia Kressin, library board member.
Kressin, co-owner of Kyle’s Market in Colfax, said she had read through all the guidelines for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the guidelines available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and came up with a plan for the grocery store.
The grocery store has a system in place to document that all of the employees are healthy, by using a checklist, and the store keeps all of the logs, she said.
An emergency response plan will help the library director to “cover your bases,” Kressin said.
Hurlburt also noted that the majority of books have not yet been returned to the library, although some have been placed in the book drop.
The books will have to be “quarantined” for a certain period of time when they come back to the library to avoid spreading the virus and also will have to be disinfected, she said.
The state Department of Public Instruction will issue guidelines on levels of service as well and will issue guidelines on when it is appropriate to have larger group gatherings of 10 or 50 people, Hurlburt said.
The library will have to do more online programming and may also have to “stagger” programing in different sessions so that the groups of people are smaller, she said.
The Colfax Public Library often has between 100 and 200 people in the building for the Halloween Monster Bash in October and Christmas with Santa Claus in December.
The Colfax Public Library Board unanimously approved a motion that starting June 1, the computers at the library would be available by appointment with protections in place for library patrons and for employees; that curbside pick-up would continue with extended hours; and that no games would be allowed on the computers because games are not an essential activity.
The library board also unanimously approved tabling the agenda item about opening the library again on July 1 until the June meeting.
To avoid large groups of people gathering in Tower Park and in the library or the auditorium for the Summer Reading programs in July, Hurlburt said she will be using an online program called Bean Stack for the Summer Reading program.
The state paid for Bean Stack for every library in the state, and the online program has many features that can be customized by each library, she said.
Customizing and personalizing Bean Stack for the Colfax library will take a couple of weeks, and then it must be tested and approved by the state, which takes another week, Hurlburt said.
Children can earn online badges for completing programs in Bean Stack, and if they complete a program, they are entered into a drawing for a prize, she said.
Several of the performers who were going to be in Tower Park for Summer Reading have agreed to do online performances. Library staff will prepare an envelope for each child signed up for summer reading with craft projects and a free book, Hurlburt said.
The library provides snacks for the children and the adults who come for Summer Reading, and Hurlburt said she would use the money she normally uses to buy snacks to send out the envelopes to the youngsters.
As of May 19, there were 70 children signed up for Summer Reading, she said.
Hurlburt said she had been contacted by Trevor Hovde, Colfax Elementary principal, about speaking by Zoom to the elementary classes concerning library services before at-home instruction ended and what will be available this summer.
If more children sign up after talking to the elementary classes, “we will have quite the program,” she said.
The Colfax Public Library Board meets next on June 16 at 5:30 p.m.