Mid-Columbia Libraries prepare to reopen in Phase 2

Libraries in Benton and Franklin counties are working to get readers back inside but staff still recommend curbside services until Phase 2 plans are finalized.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Benton and Franklin counties were advancing to Phase 2 on Tuesday. Annie Warren with Mid-Columbia Libraries said their staff received the notification along with requirements for reopening and have started to implement new safety protocols.

“We are asking customers to be patient with us as we work through those modifications and know that our services will be limited but we still have of course, great service at curbside and also online with our huge digital collection,” Warren said.

Staff would still like customers to use touch-less services, like curbside pick-up and outdoor drop-off, until those Phase 2 plans are in place. The services created during the pandemic will remain in place, like the quarantining of returned materials. The books, movies and magazines are placed in large bins for 96 hours, or 4 days, to ensure the virus is not living on any surfaces. Warren anticipates staff are prepared to handle curbside, online and in-store customers due to how they’ve handled the switch during the pandemic.

“We’ve been doing curbside now for quite some time,” she said, “Branch leadership are really prepared to welcome people back in person. We’ve got the pieces in place to continue the quarantining so I think it will just be a matter of getting those plans in place for each branch.”

Once doors do open, things inside will look different to customers. Washington state requires plastic barriers between customers and staff, so checking out a book will work a little differently. Self check-out stations are also offered, and encouraged by staff, to limit contact.

“If they [customers] need extra assistance, they can come to the desk,”Warren said, “Our staff will be in masks as well. We’ve got hand sanitizer and cleaning products throughout the branches.”

The library system is still finalizing their plan for each branch, but computers will most likely be spaced apart, some chairs won’t be available throughout the library and masks will be required.

“We’re working on social distancing signage next,” Warren said, “So I think the main thing for customers to keep in mind when coming back into our branches is that we are limited to 25% capacity. Our services are going to be limited.”

Online activities are still available. Go to their website to learn more about their online services and reading challenges.