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Safety is the priority as patrons return to the Newberg facility, which is keeping occupancy low.

NEWBERG GRAPHIC: GARY ALLEN - Lori Biever-Launder (left) and Cynthia Swanson store away books returned last week. Following state guidelines, the books and other library materials sit for three days before being reshelved in order to ensure they are virus free.

Last week, the Newberg Public Library opened its doors to patrons for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic put restrictions on local businesses and entities. For the entirety of the shutdown period prior to Yamhill County entering Phase I of its reopening, the library was closed completely.

"Our planning to reopen started about six weeks ago," library director Will Worthey said on June 1, the day before the library opened for returns. "We're having to temper our excitement about seeing the public again with the reality that we have to focus on keeping people safe. We are opening this week, but it's not as it was at all."

Beginning June 2, the library was opened from noon to 6 p.m. for curbside returns only. On June 9, the library reopened with limited hours — noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays — with plenty of new regulations in place.

Staff wear masks, follow a regular cleaning schedule, and have put safety and social-distancing measures in place. Patrons are encouraged to wear masks to keep those around them safe and practice social distancing, as they would anywhere else.

"We are asking people to send one person only from their family or bubble to do library business," Worthey said. "Please wear a mask when you come to the library to protect others, and know that although the library will be open, our holds system will not be running yet. People won't be able to get held items coming from McMinnville or Salem just yet, but that may change soon."

People can now pick up holds that Worthey said have been "languishing" for the months since the pandemic started. They also can check out items from the shelves and use a handful of spaced out computers in the library if they schedule an appointment. All computers are a safe social distance apart and are cleaned thoroughly after each use.

The goal of the measures Worthey has in place is to keep the occupancy of the library low and keep visitors from contracting or spreading COVID-19. While the Newberg library was shuttered during the worst of the pandemic so far, not every library in the region was like that.

"Some libraries decided to do curbside service for the last few weeks, but I decided not to because I didn't feel that was safe," Worthey said. "I'm not knocking other libraries that decided to do this, but looking at the guidance when the curve was still going up, I wasn't comfortable having our staff in close proximity to each other and cars."

All of the library's programming is now online, Worthey said.

"Many of the activities we would do in-person, we are going to do virtually," he said. "We will have literacy events, readings for kids and the like all done through the web. Our summer reading mascot, a dragon, will be traveling around town virtually and leaving behind clues for people to find at various businesses."

For more information on the library's plan for reopening and safety precautions you can take on your visit, go to newbergoregon.gov/library.


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