Le Mars Library to remain closed

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

LE MARS — While the doors at the Le Mars Public Library will continue to be locked to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, rest assured the library is conducting business “almost as usual.”

The Library Board of Trustees met on April 30 to discuss the recent proclamation by Gov. Kim Reynolds that stated libraries may reopen on May 1.

“Yes, the governor said ‘may’ reopen,” Library Director Shirley Taylor pointed out.

However, the board and staff were not ready to take that leap.

After discussing issues related to social distancing and the health and safety of the staff and public, the trustees voted to keep the library building closed to the public until further notice. 

Board President Robbin Hermsen said from the board’s standpoint, it was not possible to open doors to the public yet.

“We do not have all the materials, sanitizing things and wipes, that we would need,” Hermsen said. “Quite honestly, some of those things are very difficult to find. There are also a few other things we would need to get taken care of.”

The trustees did instruct Taylor to develop a plan to re-open the building to the public. As part of this plan, Taylor is to determine what services can be made available in the building while adhering to the governor's guidelines for social distancing, increased hygiene practices and other public health measures issued by the Department of Public Health.

“We want all safeguards in place such as hygiene equipment, hand sanitizer, and gloves to make sure that when people come in, the building is clean and to clean with afterwards,” Taylor said. “We also have to decide how do we limit the amount of people in the building at any time. We want to keep that social distance.”

Some things, such as those in the children’s area which are handled frequently, will probably be put in storage for now.

“We want to be mindful and do our part for people who use the facility, that they are not unduly exposed,” Taylor said.

While they continue to make plans for opening up to foot traffic, Taylor said she is very happy with the way patrons have responded to the curbside pickup option.

“It took us and probably the public, a little bit to adjust to that, but things are going really well,” Taylor said.

She reported to the board at the April 30 meeting that since the library doors have been closed, some 6,600 items and been checked out or renewed since the March 17 closure.

They have also circulated about 1,000 ebooks.

“That’s great because we do put money into that,” Taylor said. “We have over 500 audio downloads during that same period.”

At first Taylor and the staff thought they would be closed for only a bit, so the carpets were shampooed.

Since then, the staff has done an inventory of the library’s collection, which consists of over 30,000 items.

“Our staff has also spent time reimagining how to do our summer reading program,” Taylor said. “It’s time to think about how can we do this to reach the most people, and assume that if the library is open, some people may not be comfortable coming in.”

For that, the best option may be a paper-based program with the option to drop information in the dropbox or pick items up curbside.

“If things can open up, all the better. We want our children to hang on to their reading skills,” Taylor said.

During the meeting, trustees and city council members expressed that the current library services offered through curbside pick-up and online resources were working well and positive comments had been heard throughout the community.

Hermsen added, “We were very happily surprised to see how many people were still requesting and checking out materials. It seems Shirley’s idea of curbside delivery worked really well.

“It made us feel good about what library services are available, the ability to continue them in a difficult time and help people out when stuck at home. It’s very rewarding,” he said.

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