Gunnison County libraries to reopen August 10

Limit of seven people at a time in Old Rock

By Katherine Nettles

Beginning on Monday, August 10, we can all once again go back to our local libraries to peruse collections in person, at our leisure—while social distancing, of course.

The State of Colorado Public Health Order issued on July 30 included allowances for libraries, and people will be allowed to access both of the district’s libraries.

The Gunnison Public Library will be limited to nine people at one time, and the smaller Old Rock Library will be limited to seven people. Masks are required, as in all indoor public spaces within the county. If the local health order makes a move to the “Yellow” level on the Coronameter the libraries will return to a curbside service model.

“We will also be adhering to all Gunnison County Public Health Order requirements. We plan to use the County’s level system, and data, to help guide decisions about increasing or reducing in person services,” said library district executive director Drew Brookhart. Brookhart  reported that staffing levels have remained unchanged throughout the pandemic, but the number of items checked out has gone down by about two thirds since the libraries closed their physical spaces to the public in mid-March and became window-side service only.

“Use statistics reflect the fact that people are currently unable to fully interact with their libraries,” he wrote by e-mail to the Crested Butte News.

The two libraries circulated 6,946 items in March and April 2020, almost all of them during the first two weeks of March, compared to 19,365 items circulated and 61,708 in-person visits during the same time period in 2019.

One thing has gone up, however. “We have seen a substantial increase in the use of digital collections. Uses of the libraries’ online collections have increased by 3,952 over the same time period one year ago,” said Brookhart.

Brookhart said in terms of reopening, library staff are set for the change.

“Through a mix of limiting the number of staff members working on site, encouraging remote work where possible and sharing public service responsibilities, our libraries have successfully maintained employee and public health,” Brookhart said.

The library has established cleaning protocols that have worked well for the district and those will continue. All returned items, or items arriving on courier from other libraries, are quarantined for one week before being checked out.

“Time is the best disinfectant for paper items and hard surfaces. Out of an abundance of caution, we are doubling the amount of quarantine time recommended by the Institute of Museums and Library Studies,” Brookhart explained. “Libraries bring people together and share physical objects, both of which need to be limited in order to keep people safe.”

Summer Reading Care Packages are available now at both libraries. “We are not offering in person programming opportunities at this time,” said Brookhart. “We look forward to re-invigorating all of our programming as soon as possible.” 

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