Libraries face challenges in providing services safely

Safe reopening options vary depending on the facility
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 5:05 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - “Libraries were not designed with pandemics in mind.”

Bangor Public Library director Ben Treat says they welcomed 800 visitors a day before the pandemic. Now, most visits must be by appointment.

“The library is really looking forward to being able to reopen. It’s important to us. Planning it out is the challenge.”

The Maine State Library in Augusta has helped the 200 plus libraries around the state with guidelines regarding the pandemic, putting out documents they all can use. The Maine State Library Development Director Janet McKenney says they’re working to update them.

“We’re circling around now to update that document to include anything that’s happening in stage four that might change what libraries are doing.”

Foremost in mind is safety for staff and patrons, but what that looks like varies.

“We have libraries for communities of 100 people, and we have libraries for communities of tens of thousands of people.”

“The challenge is different for every single library because they have to look at their space, and they have to look at the staff they have. How people can flow in and out of the building.”

They’re also considering how libraries offer a wider variety of services and uses than other public or retail spaces. Treat says libraries are used by people from all walks of life.

“How are people using the library when they come in and how do we make sure that we’re anticipating all the different ways that people use the library.”

Most libraries are encouraging community members to make use of virtual options if they’re able.

“The kind of walls between the communities are melting down and libraries are opening up their virtual programming to everyone.” says McKenney.

The Maine State Library maintains an online directory on what services libraries are offering.

“We ask libraries to update their information as their status changes.”

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