Sweetwater Libraries Adjust After Reopening

Sweetwater Libraries Adjust After Reopening

White Mountain Library Public Service Librarian Aaron Volner waits behind plexiglass to help library patrons. Photo by Stephanie Thompson

It’s been almost two weeks since the Sweetwater County Library System reopened, and while the libraries may look different, the employees are ready to meet patrons’ needs.

Sweetwater County Library System Director Jason Grubb said all three Sweetwater County Libraries – White Mountain Library, Rock Springs Library, and the Sweetwater County Library – officially reopened June 1. Due to COVID-19 Coronavirus recommendations, the libraries had been shut since March 16.

The first day the library reopened, the amount of checkouts quadrupled, Grubb said. However, since then, the numbers have leveled off.

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Prior to reopening the facilities, the libraries started offering curbside pick up. Grubb said this service is still available; and all residents need to do is call, request the items they would like, and then come pick them up.

How The Libraries Have Changed

Things not only look different at the libraries, but feel different, Grubb said.

Something library visitors will notice right away are the plexiglass partitions set up throughout the libraries. These partitions are in place to ensure employees and patrons are safe during the book checkouts and returns, he said.

“We tried to make them as welcoming as possible, but it’s different,” Grubb said.

As for the computers, they are still open for residents to use, however, some of the computer stations are closed to allow for appropriate social distancing. Grubb said patrons also must sign up to use the computer and are limited to only one hour of use if the library is busy.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

“We are cleaning a lot more, which is why we have restricted hours,” Grubb said.

The libraries are open Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm, Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday from noon until 4 pm.

When the building isn’t closed for a complete cleaning, employees are constantly wiping down their work stations and limiting contact with each other and patrons. They are also more aware of what they are touching throughout the day.

“Every, single procedure needs to be reevaluated,” Grubb said.

Something as simple as sharing a pen is something library employees must think about, he said.

Limiting Contact

Grubb said the libraries are also limiting how many employees are in the libraries by staggering schedules. This is one way the library can help with social distancing.

“Anyone that can work from home, is staying at home,” Grubb said.

Employees who are at the library are encouraged to limit their contact with patrons. For a lot of children, the library is like a second home and it’s difficult for employees to ask children and their parents to keep their distance.

“That’s been the hardest,” Grubb said.

For the youth services libraries, this has been especially hard on them because the summer programs have been cancelled, he said.

Grubb is still trying to come to terms with the everything he and the library employees have had to go through and is reflecting on decisions he’s had to make.

“One thing I never thought I’d have to do in my career is close a library,” he said.

He’s glad the libraries are now open and is hopeful he and his employees won’t have to go through this again.