During Tuesday’s first-ever electronic meeting, Farmington Community Library trustees talked about the complicated process of re-opening more than a month after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Library Director Riti Grover said staff has been working on a plan that takes into consideration CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and government guidelines.
”We also will make our own judgment calls to make sure everyone is safe,” she said, adding staff has had to do their own research because there are no established protocols.
Trustee Bill Largent asked about signage and handing out gloves.
“It would seem to me in order for patrons to come in, they would have to bring their own gloves and masks,” he said. “Unlike in the grocery store, where what you touch you take home with you, in the library what you touch, you put back.”
Facilities coordinator Donald Wrench said the Farmington Hills Fire Department Fire Marshal calculated that to ensure social distancing, the library could accommodate a maximum of 256 people. Wrench suggested, considering the layout, book shelves, and other factors, a limit of 50 people at the Farmington Hills library and 25 at the Farmington library.
Grover said it would not hurt the library to start slow.
“We might have to rethink programming, which we are doing already,” she said. “There might be a shift in the amount of services, the availability of programs online versus physical facilities. It is a learning curve, but it is something we might have to put in place.”
Largent said the library could turn off every other computer and shut down the children’s section, which houses a number of “hands on” resources.
Board President Jim White asked whether the discussion was about opening “in some fashion” when Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home. Stay Safe.” Executive Order expires and wondered when new rules should be posted on the library website.
Wrench said once the libraries open up, staff would be “flooded” with material returns. He said they would need at least a few days to figure out how to handle the books and deliveries between the 12 Mile and Liberty Street branches.
A bigger conversation
Grover said the library’s COVID-19 team has discussed how to handle returns, whether to quarantine items, and how to mitigate cross-contamination.
She also remained cautious. “I don’t want to jump the gun right now and have anybody conclude when we’re going to be opening… That’s why I wanted to have the plan and then present it to the board, so that we don’t miss anything.”
Grover said the buildings would likely open in phases, perhaps with limited hours. “That is going to be a bigger conversation for us.”
White suggested holding a special meeting before the libraries re-open to discuss the process.