Farmington Community Library director Riti Grover told trustees Thursday that her team is preparing to welcome patrons back in February.
Libraries first closed in March of last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under a phased reopening plan, the system first offered curbside service in July. Buildings re-opened in September with safety restrictions and closed again in November as Oakland County infection rates spiked.
Board of Trustees president Jim White raised the issue in light of Farmington Public Schools offering in-person classes and the state opening more businesses.
“I do understand that if work can be done from home, it should be, but the library is a different kind of business,” he said. “Could we be allowing people to come in and use the computers?”
Grover said staff scheduling assumes both the Farmington and Farmington Hills buildings will open next month. The plan assumes no new state directives.
“We all strongly feel, team leads and staff, that we need to have people back on the floor into the branches and be able to provide in person service,” she said.
Grover said factors considered in decision-making include the rate of positive tests and the state COVID-19 dashboard.
“Some of us do feel strongly that opening the computers to the public is very essential,” she said. “We are making conscious effort to make that possible. At the same time, we want to make sure that neither the people coming into the building or the staff are subjected to any unnecessary exposure.”
No specific state direction
White pointed out that while libraries had specific directives from the State of Michigan last spring, they do not now. Also, vaccines are not yet available for all library staff.
Vice president Bill Largent asked what surrounding libraries are doing. Grover said most are at the same stage as Farmington, and he pointed out that libraries in northern Michigan are open.
“My library card gives me access to 39 libraries and they’re all open,” he said, later adding that they limit the number of patrons and follow COVID safety procedures.
Trustee Michele Kelly asked about a “happy medium” between curbside service and “just opening the doors and letting everybody in.” She wondered whether patrons could access computers by appointment.
Grover said that was in place when buildings first re-opened. Patrons could make 30-minute appointments on the hour, with computers and desks sanitized in between.
“I think we would be initially going into that,” she added. “There is no discussion about opening to everyone without any restrictions or limitations.”
Listen to the full meeting: