By LeAnn R. Ralph
Editor’s Note: As of July 23, the Colfax Public Library is now requiring patrons to wear masks since the COVID-19 activity level in Dunn County moved from “moderate” to “high.”
COLFAX — The Colfax Public Library Board decided at the July 21 meeting to not make masks mandatory at the library in spite of increasing infection levels of COVID-19 in Dunn County and surrounding counties.
Even though the library board decided not to require masks, the board gave Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, library director, the discretion to strongly encourage library patrons to wear masks and to require masks if the COVID-19 activity level in Dunn County changed from moderate to high.
The situation is becoming “more dire,” Bragg-Hurlburt said, adding that in spite of the dire situation, she was not sure if she wanted to insist all library patrons wear a mask while in the library.
The Menomonie Public Library Board recently approved requiring all library patrons, except children three and under, to wear a mask because it had reportedly come to the attention of the Menomonie library board that older patrons, who are at higher risk for more severe illness with COVID-19, were avoiding the library because there was no mask requirement.
Gary Stene, library board member, village trustee and a supervisor on the Dunn County Board, asked one of the other library board members, Megan Pawlak, who teaches in the Colfax school district, whether the students would be required to wear masks when they return to school in the fall.
Pawlak said nothing had yet been decided.
On a recent visit to Illinois, Stene said he had discovered “everyone has to wear masks.”
At a bar, the tables were spread out, and all of the employees were wearing masks. Everyone who came through the door was checked to see if he or she was running a fever, he said.
In Alaska, visitors either must take a rapid response COVID-19 test or else quarantine for 14 days, said Olivia Landon, president of the library board.
Stene made a motion to require masks in the library and to leave it up to the director of when and how to implement the requirement.
The motion died for the lack of a second.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order, discussion should be held when there is a motion and a second. Making a motion and providing a second does not mean that the people who made the motion and the second must vote in favor of the motion.
Forcing a child who is three years to old to wear a mask is “not okay,” and it would be better to have the cut-off age at five or six, Pawlak said.
The library should “highly recommend” patrons wear masks, but if it is mandated, some families will not come into the library, she said.
Landon wondered how library staff felt about their safety.
Visitors to the library are not staying as long as they have in the past, and there are plexiglass shields around the check-out desk, Hurlburt said.
John Thompson, director of the Indianhead Federated Library System, is recommending all libraries require masks, Hurlburt said, adding that the “culture” in Colfax might not be conducive to requiring masks.
One library patron had, apparently, been irritated with Hurlburt for wearing a mask while she was working in the library.
The library could require masks three days per week but not mandatory for the other two days, Landon suggested.
Hurlburt said she would rather not implement a policy in which masks were mandatory only part of the time.
Several library board members suggested the Colfax library could require masks if the Dunn County Health Department issued an order requiring masks or if the state issued an order making masks mandatory.
Guidelines or recommendations from the county or the state would not be enough to convince them masks should be required in the library, they said, but an order from the county or the state would represent a different situation.
It was not clear from the discussion why the Colfax library would have any discretion if the county health department or the state issued an order requiring masks. Health orders are not a recommendation, but instead, use the word “shall” to mean people are required to comply with the order or else face some kind of penalty, such as a fine or jail time.
Hurlburt also said she had been checking the map on the state Department of Health Services website that classifies counties by whether their level of COVID-19 infections are “low” or “moderate” or “high.”
The library could start requiring patrons to wear masks when the rate of infections with COVID-19 goes to “high” in Dunn County, she said.
The Colfax Library Board eventually approved a motion giving Hurlburt the discretion to require masks in the library if Dunn County’s infection rate is classified as “high.”
The Colfax Public Library Board meets next on August 25.