As you can imagine, making the decision to close our buildings and transition temporarily to virtual services, programs, and outreach was not a simple or easy decision to make. Library staff have a deep commitment to public service and a strong desire to provide a full range of Library services to our community. It is painful for us to have any restrictions in place, and we are actively planning for phased building reopenings, and working to secure the necessary safety and cleaning supplies through a reliable, long-term supply chain.
At every step, we are mindful of how we can best support our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as support individual residents in navigating this unprecedented public health crisis. The safety of our patrons, our staff, and the community at large guides all of our decisions and continues to be our highest priority.
Now that the Governor has moved the State to moderate/orange risk level, and Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson has followed suit, I wanted to provide an update on the Library’s plans for phasing in access to Library buildings and collections.
My commitment to the community and to our staff is that we will phase-in access to spaces and in-person services when we can do so safely, and in full compliance with the recommendations from the Governor’s Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan, the related Phased Guidelines, and the County’s Public Health Order. Given the potential limitations on cleaning/disinfectant supplies, limited staffing levels, and an increased need to clean and disinfect spaces more frequently during this health crisis, we do not anticipate having the capacity to open all Library locations any time soon.
WHAT WILL PHASED REOPENING LOOK LIKE?
Dr. Anthony Fauci recently commented, “you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline. It doesn’t matter what you say — one week, two weeks, three weeks — you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.” With that in mind, I believe it is important to share that we have teams of staff working on the many details involved with phased reopening. We anticipate our first phase will get staff back into the building to accept returned materials. Once we are able manage material returns, and have a safe procedure for quarantining and disinfecting in place, we hope to begin curbside pickup and additional access to Library materials and resources. Next, we plan to begin opening locations for limited services, and with firm social distancing and health guidelines in place. As we move to a green/low-risk status, the Library will be able to further relax these restrictions. This draft framework for phased building reopening has the caveat that the timeframe is wholly dependent on a variety of factors that we don’t control. We will continue to provide specific information on the phasing in of building openings and services as soon as it is available.
While our beloved buildings have been closed, the Library has been very much open. Library staff have been busy reinventing how we provide services, programs, and outreach virtually, while simultaneously working on designing our phased building reopening plans. Here are a number of ways in which the Library is offering support for the community:
- Library Cards Online
- Downloadable/Streaming ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, films
- Live Homework Help for students 1pm–11pm
- Learning Platforms such as Lynda, Creativebug, Mango Languages, and more in our Digital Library
- Live Chat assistance (available from our homepage)
- Virtual Storytimes
- COVID-19 Essential Community Resources and Information
While we are providing many Library services and programs online, we also recognize that this does not work for everyone, as there are many in our community who lack reliable Internet connectivity and/or access to computers. For that reason, we have been working over the past few weeks on a multi-partner project to get SLC residents connected. We are also working on partner projects to get physical books delivered to residents in care facilities, and in our homeless resource centers.
In deciding where to focus our time and resources, we have been — and will continue to be — guided by asking and answering the questions “What is needed?” and “How can we help?” Our outreach staff are currently connecting with over 100 partners to determine how the Library can offer support. In deciding the timelines for any reopening of our spaces and expansion of services, we will continue to develop and implement plans that allow us to serve you safely and effectively.
I speak for our entire staff when I say we miss seeing you in person, and we look forward to the time we can all be together again.
-Peter Bromberg, Executive Director