As positive COVID cases begin to rise once again, we are seeing that some public libraries that have opened for browsing are now closing down once again. Here at TML, we are closely monitoring the health situation while we strive to provide a consistent level of service as the pandemic continues. We are basing our decision-making on four primary factors:
- Our ability to fill open positions. (We currently have only two-thirds of our positions filled.) Reopening our building will also require some internal adjustments of how, when, and where library staff work
- CDC guidelines: Guidelines for Public and Community Buildings have not changed; currently 5 people per 1,000 square feet of public usable space. Right now, given existing state guidelines, our current staffing levels, and the layout of our building with its two service desks on two different floors, the shift to opening our doors to a limited number of people for a limited amount of time would necessarily result in a diminished level of service overall.
- Removal of seating and computers, as state and CDC guidelines continue to require only short visits by the public when it is feasible to open. Under these guidelines, the public would only be able to use the library for short periods of browsing. Most of the activities people miss would still be unavailable, such as sitting to read a newspaper or magazine, relaxing and chatting with others, attending in person programs, or story times.
- Vaccination status of staff and general public. We are thrilled that all of our staff are now eligible for vaccinations, and we are looking forward to that period in which all of us are fully vaccinated, and the majority of the public is vaccinated as well.
There are still a lot of unknowns, and we are assessing the situation on a weekly basis to determine how best to welcome the public through our doors.
Ultimately, decisions about when and how we reopen our building to the public will be based on the latest public health information. In the mean time, we know many of you miss browsing. Browsing, ultimately, is a style of service, but it is not the service itself. Since early last summer, the public has complete access to all of our collection, as well as those of over 80 libraries in Maine. In the absence of in-person browsing, we have create many online virtual shelves, as well as our Library to Go service to help recreate that joy of discovery in finding something you didn’t know was available.
View the chart below to see the most recent update on Pandemic Service Levels, or click here.