Columbia County libraries reopen as Phase 2 continues
*This story has been corrected
The COVID-19 pandemic had a lot of unusual effects on people.
Some people burned through all the movies on their DVRs in the first week. Others got to the end of video games they'd never quite finished.
Others took the time to read — and those folks have more reason to smiles these days.
After Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority approved Columbia County to enter Phase 2, people now have access to more in-person services, including libraries.
On Wednesday, June 17, the Scappoose Public Library reopened to the public. That process includes new hours, enhanced cleaning and a capacity limited to 15 people in the building.
People are also asked to limit their time in the library to 30 minutes.
"We're sterilizing the computers between each use," explained Scappoose Public Library director Jeff Weiss.
Weiss added that the library is not offering headphones for computer use or public restrooms at this time. Face coverings are also required for all staff and patrons 2 years and older.
The library will offer facemasks at no charge. Hand sanitizer will also be provided and gloves will be available upon request.
As for story times and events, the library plans to keep those on hold for the time being.
"On Wednesdays, we're doing story time on Facebook Live," said Weiss. "But as far as in-person story times, that's canceled for now because of capacity in each room."
Weiss said several of the library's virtual programs have lower attendance than their in-person predecessors, but Weiss said that despite the low numbers, staff will continue to offer virtual events.
The library will also continue to offer curbside pickup during open hours.
Staff will limit the use of the children's area to one family at a time, and patrons are urged to practice social distancing and stay 6 feet apart whenever possible. Signs and markers will be posted to direct traffic flow and encourage social distancing, Weiss said.
Last week, the Vernonia Public Library also opened to the public. People don't have to wear masks there, but are encouraged to distance themselves from others, said Vernonia Public Library Director Shannon Romtvedt.
Similar to other libraries, there's also a time limit on use of computers, an increased cleaning schedule for library staff and a limit on how many people can be inside of the building at once.
"It's just kind of a gradual process to see what it's like to be open," Romtvedt said. "And we're considering having programs outside of library hours, so we don't have to work with spacing the people in the program and those using the library."
Romtvedt said she's excited to see patrons outside of scheduled appointments and curbside pick-ups.
"At first, it felt strange for it to be closed and empty in here," she recalled. "It felt like it was just time to see patrons again and open our doors. So it was nice seeing the first people come in and how happy they were to just be in the library."
The Vernonia Public library will continue to offer outdoor pickup on holds and prints upon request. People can call or email the library to make an appointment or to request items for pick-up.
Other libraries in the area, however, haven't been so quick to open their doors.
The St. Helens Public Library is using the shutdown to handle some remodeling efforts, fixing the building's floor coverings, tweaking random repairs and figuring out electrical and plumbing for a new space.
This means patrons only have access to curbside pick-up for now.
"Those projects need to be complete before we can allow the public back into the building," said St. Helens Library director Margaret Jeffries. "We also will probably do a phased approach to reopening, but I don't have any dates that I can attach at this point."
She said she expects that allowing use of the library's computers ‚ by appointment — will likely be the next step toward a true reopening.
"But our next step after curbside service will be to have a public computer appointment," Jeffries said. "We (also) have a great deal of virtual programming. Our youth librarian does a virtual story time, and that's accessible from our Facebook page."
As for the Clatskanie Library District in northern Columbia County, the library's website states that the library is temporarily closed to the public.
However, due to the county entering Phase 2 of reopening, patrons can place holds on up to two items at a time for next-day pickup. Holds can be placed from the library's online catalog. Patrons will be notified by phone or email when materials are ready.
For more information, call 503-728-3732.
*The original version of this story misidentified Vernonia Public Library Director Shannon Romtvedt.
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