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The county library service says it will cancel the annual Art of the Story Festival, which was set to take place in April.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF TIGARD - Sherwood Public LibraryAs advised by health officials, libraries throughout Washington County will cancel all activities for which the target age is 60 and up, as well as cancel all events where more than 250 are expected to attend, said a statement from Washington County Cooperative Library Services on Thursday, March 12.

"Based on directives from Governor Kate Brown to cancel gatherings with over 250 attendees, WCCLS and its libraries will be canceling the 16th annual Art of the Story Festival, which was scheduled to happen in April," said Lisa Tattersall. "Libraries continue to host other events, but this could change at any time as the situation develops. Please contact your local library with any questions about their programs."

Libraries will remain open during normal business hours as officials monitor information from health officials and employees take recommended steps to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at all locations, the statement said.

"To curtail open hours or close libraries in advance of guidance from health authorities could have negative effects on our communities," WCCLS said. "Closing libraries would be a measure of last resort and a decision made locally by each library, based on available staffing and guidance from health authorities."

The Washington County library system encompasses 16 libraries across the county, including two locations in Hillsboro. They serve as community gathering places, technology hubs and after-school program locations, among other roles, in addition to their traditional roles as places to check out books.

"WCCLS is actively monitoring information and advice from state and county public health officials about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)," library officials said. "As a library cooperative, we are working closely with our member libraries to respond as needed to this developing situation."

Library staff are being directed to wiping down high-touch surfaces in public areas at least twice every day, make hand sanitizer and wipes available to the public when possible, space public seating six feet apart when possible to follow social distancing guidelines, and remove soft toys and other hard-to-clean items from children's areas.

The Beaverton City Library announced Thursday evening it is canceling all library events through Thursday, March 19. Sherwood Public Library manager Adrienne Doman Calkins said her library is canceling events for the next two weeks.

WCCLS will post updates and changes to its activities at wccls.org/covid-19.

Many library officials have been taking precautionary steps for weeks. The Tigard Public Library removed its large collection of fabric hand puppets from public use last week.

Libraries have also posted signage with information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, including messages about frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact with people when ill.

The service pointed people who choose not to go into a library location to its online library resources, including e-books, language learning activities and homework tutoring.

WCCLS management will be meeting with library directors next week to determine how to enhance library services for people who cannot continue to go to a library location, the statement said.

"WCCLS and its libraries strive to be inclusive, welcoming places, and we ask the community to remember that stigma, bias, and rumors do not help in the fight to contain this disease," the statement said. "COVID-19 is not connected to any race, ethnicity, or nationality. During this time, it is critically important that we only share information from trusted sources."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information on library event cancellations.


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