The following is a message from Central Arkansas Library System Executive Director Nate Coulter.
We wanted to let you know that over the course of the next few weeks, our library buildings will once again allow the public to come inside for limited services and hours. This has been a complicated matter. We have had to consider what services can we safely offer. We have researched what other libraries in Arkansas and elsewhere are doing.
Our goal is to provide as many services as possible, as quickly as possible, while keeping everyone’s safety foremost. We believe that the plan we have put together does that and minimizes the risk of COVID-19 to the public and to our staff. Of course, all of this is subject to any changes in health guidelines from state and federal authorities.
We will start a phased reopening of our library buildings for public visits on June 8, with a few libraries opening that week and others to follow in successive weeks. We want you to be able to come in for browsing, scanning, faxing, printing and photocopying.
Our computers will again be available for your use to connect with the internet and search for jobs and resources. We will use distanced seating for your safety, which means that the number of computers available will be reduced and computer time must be reserved in advance in most cases.
In order to welcome you back to your public library in person, the following protocols will be in effect and followed by staff, security and patrons.
- For the time being, the library will not admit any children under the age of 16 without an adult.
- All library users will be required to wear face coverings to minimize airborne droplets. Masks will be available at the front of the library for those who do not have them. Children under two are exempt from the requirement.
- We are re-spacing our furniture to encourage correct social distancing. Sneeze shields will be installed at public service desks and the frequency of cleaning will be increased in our buildings. Staff will be temperature-checked before going on duty. Water fountains will be covered to prevent public use.
- We will ensure that you are not crowded with too many other patrons by allowing only a limited number of users in the building at any time. You may make a reservation in advance to go to your library, but half of the visitor spaces will also be reserved for walk-in patrons. Each visit to the library will have a maximum time limit of one hour to make sure there is room for everyone who wants to visit.
- The first hour of every day will be reserved for our more vulnerable populations, including all seniors over 65, immunocompromised people or others by arrangement. For your safety, all visitors will be logged so we have a complete record of contacts with the library system in case it should be necessary to begin contact tracing for any exposure to COVID-19.
- No meeting room use or group programs will be permitted until further notice.
- Our retail outlets including our Galleries at Library Square and the Bookstore at Library Square will open for shopping for limited hours by appointment. Visitors will be asked to wear masks and observe social distancing.
As we reopen to in-person visits, services that we have offered over the past weeks will continue. Our curbside service will allow you to reserve print books, DVDs or even order print jobs through our mobile printing service. You can still pick up these materials without ever entering the buildings. When you return materials, we will continue to quarantine those materials for 72 hours to keep them sanitary for staff and future borrowers. Our staff wears masks and at times gloves while working with materials, for their safety and yours.
Our CALS librarians will still be available to answer your questions by live chat, or email or phone. Whether you want recommendations on books or movies, activities for your kids, information about Summer Reading Club or gifts from our galleries or bookstore, we are here to help.
Since March, we have distributed more than 70,000 meals from our library branches to keep kids and teens from going hungry. These meal distributions will continue seven days a week using safe social distancing practices. A number of library branches are also offering grab 'n' go programming, so you can pick up supplies for online crafts, book clubs and more. Our virtual programming still continues with a rich variety of interactive and recorded programs on the CALS YouTube channel.
We are delighted to welcome you back into library buildings, and we will always do our best to serve you while protecting your health. Additional phases in a full re-opening are currently planned for the end of July and for September of this year, if public health conditions remain stable enough according to the CDC, the WHO and state and local authorities.
We appreciate your support of our safety protocols as we make our way back to providing as much service as possible, as safely as possible.