By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — After being closed since March 19 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colfax Public Library plans to re-open July 1.
“I’m glad we didn’t open in June and that we waited for guidelines,” said Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library, at the Colfax Public Library Board’s June 16 meeting.
The Colfax library has been doing curbside pick-up of materials in June during the library’s normal hours of operation. The library also has been allowing patrons to make appointments to come into the library to use the computers.
The library has been averaging about six pickups per day, and about three people per day have been making appointments to come into the library to either use one of the computers or, in the case of elderly people, to browse for their own books, Hurlburt said.
Hurlburt has received guidance for re-opening from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The DPI is recommending libraries open at 25 percent capacity, and based on the Colfax library’s capacity of 30, six patrons can be admitted at a time with two staff members working, she said.
Opening at 25 percent capacity is being “cautious,” because libraries in communities with little or no cases of COVID-19 can increase to 50 percent capacity, Hurlburt said.
Allowing six people at a time in the library would be a fairly “normal flow of traffic” for Colfax, she said.
Curbside pickup will be available for library materials, but people also will be allowed to come in and browse for their own books when the library re-opens, Hurlburt said.
The courier service has started up slowly and is making deliveries twice each week. The normal courier delivery schedule is three times per week, she said.
People will still be able to make appointments to use the computers, and if no one is using a computer, drop-in patrons will be allowed to use the computers, Hurlburt said.
The half hour time limit for the computers will be strictly enforced, and no one will be allowed to play games on the computers, she said.
The first hour the library is open each day can be dedicated to “health-challenged” individuals and would be the time for the elderly or immune-compromised patrons to come to the library when it is the cleanest, everyone is wearing masks and there are very few people in the library, Hurlburt said.
The library will not be doing any in-person library programming at this point, and library staff will continue to develop an on-line presence and to do Zoom outreach, she said.
The preparations Hurlburt has completed to safely re-open the library include ordering plastic guards to box off the front desk area; reducing the number of public computers to three; putting the brochures about community resources behind the front desk to they can be handed out when people ask for them rather than people shuffling through them; pens and paper are being kept behind the front desk so people can ask for them; and bean bags in the young adult area and several other chairs have been put into storage.
Hurlburt also has ordered disposable masks to have on hand for patrons, and the staff all have cloth masks and a supply of disposable gloves.
In addition, Hurlburt has stocked up on cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer; has put the sign-up sheets for the computers behind the front desk; has been keeping a record of patron contacts, in case there is an outbreak in the community and people must be notified; and has been keeping the ceiling fan on and the back door open to increase circulation.
Hurlburt noted staff and patrons have been observing social distancing of six feet, and staff members wear masks for patron contacts.
Only one staff member is scheduled to work at the time Hurlburt also is working in the library.
The Colfax Public Library Board unanimously approved re-opening the library in July.
“I feel more confident about opening now with guidance (from the DPI),” Hurlburt said.
The Colfax Public Library Board also approved a temporary amendment to the library patron rules of conduct policy.
Anyone who is not following the established safety policies for the library may be asked to leave, Hurlburt said.
If anyone is not feeling well, or if anyone in their household is not feeling well, people are being asked to remain home for the safety of everyone, she said.
Here are the patron rules of conduct:
• Six feet of social distancing must be maintained with anyone who is not a member of your household.
• A face covering is recommended for anyone over the age of two, unless a medical condition prevents use of a mask.
• Patrons should wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer prior to entering the library, before and after using the computers and after contact with high-touch areas.
• Prolonged socializing will not be permitted.
• The library will operate at reduced capacity to comply with social distancing requirements. The current capacity limit will be posted on the library door.
• Restrictive tape or barriers of any kind may not be removed to accommodate access.
• Time limits for Internet access will be enforced.
• No more than one person per computer station. The exception would be one additional person living in the same household.
The Colfax Public Library Board also approved a temporary amendment to the public library personnel policy.
The library is taking precautions to help prevent exposure to or infection with COVID-19 but cannot guarantee the library is free of the virus, the policy notes.
The COVID policy amendments supersede existing library and/or village policies.
The policy includes the following:
• Staff shall not report to work when sick.
• Staff are encouraged to monitor their temperature prior to coming to work.
• Staff with confirmed COVID exposure should self-quarantine for 14 days. Telework is expected. The requirement for a doctor’s certificate shall be waived.
• Staff with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID shall not report to work until cleared by a medical professional, and the library will close for 14 days.
• Staff with COVID-like symptoms shall not report to the work until 14 days have passed or symptoms have gone away.
• Staff must maintain social distancing with other staff members and users of the library except for immediate family.
• Staff are not required to wear a mask when they are behind the plastic barrier at the front desk, but they must wear a mask when they are out on the floor of the library to assist patrons on the computer, when they are bringing materials outside for curbside pickup, or in any situation where they are not behind the protective plastic barrier.
• Staff must wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer prior to entering the library, before and after using the computers, and after each patron interaction, and after contact with high-touch areas.
• Staff must initial any required cleaning checklists daily, which will include wiping down the mouse, headphones, keyboard, chair and table after each computer use, and wiping down high traffic surface areas such as the front desk, doorknobs, printer and copy area throughout the day. Public bathroom surfaces will be disinfected twice a day.
• Accommodations will be made for staff (or staff family members) in high risk situations. The accommodations may include limiting or eliminating patron interaction or providing a work from home option.
The Colfax Public Library Board approved an epidemic and library health emergency policy as well.
The four-page policy includes library closures, minimum staffing levels, employee illness as related to an epidemic; responsibility for library operations; communication about closures or changes in the library’s hours; and prioritization of services.