The library cart that will be used to put away books browsed by patrons. (Priyanka Ketkar photo)

Burns Lake Public Library will allow computer usage by appointments-only in phase 2

The partial re-opening expected to begin on June 16

  • Jun. 17, 2020 12:00 a.m.

With staff working round the clock, the Burns Lake public library is getting ready to enter phase 2 of the restart plan and plans to open its doors for some services starting June 16.

Despite the shut-down, the library has been providing books and DVD borrowing services through their curbside service program. In the first month of the library’s closure, the library saw a 54 per cent drop to 553 books in their circulation compared to last year’s 1204. However, that drop was partially due to the library’s complete closure before they could start the curbside program. The month of April however saw the circulation go up to 1305, which was just a 16 per cent drop from previous year’s 1556. The library also expanded their DVD collection in the last two months.

“In this area, not very many people can watch Netflix or watch YouTube even. They don’t have the connectivity and so they are able to borrow DVDs from us which has helped during isolation,” said library Director Monika Willner.

Willner is ecstatic with the library usage in the community and mentioned that despite the change in service, there wasn’t any change in people’s reading habits. The curbside service has been a hit with the patrons. “Some people call with specific book requests, while some give us the author name and ask our suggestion for a book. We have also had calls saying ‘can I have a surprise package?’ and we love such calls,” she said. Willner also said that this time of closure helped the library staff understand how lonely some of the patrons were getting and that was a major reason why they have been brainstorming different safety measures to be able to open the library soon.

RELATED: Burns Lake public library receives funding for Covid-19 measures

“We miss our seniors, we miss our regulars and they have told us they miss us too. Sometimes, people who have called to place a pickup order, have stayed longer on calls just to talk, have that communication with the outside world,” said Willner.

The phase 2 reopening of the library will continue the curbside pickup with some expanded hours and would also involve curbside delivery to the four senior housing facilities within the community if that is required. A major addition in the phase 2 would be access to the public computers.

“We will slowly reopen the doors to the public; very slowly, because we don’t know what is going to happen. We will start with access to the public computers. People would have to phone us to reserve their time,” informed Willner. Patrons will be able to book 45-minute appointments to use the computers.

Special measures like wrapping the keyboards in cling-film and discarding it after every patron’s use, using the 15 minutes after each appointment to disinfect the surfaces, plexi glass dividing the computer stations, etc. will be implemented. The library is also considering opening up the printing services and would provide on-demand and pick-ups for the printouts. They will also be restarting the chairs and table rental. “We always had this service but it was stopped until now due to Covid-19. But we would like to slowly gain our revenue back. It has been really hard and we have lost a lot of revenue just like many of the businesses,” she said.

In the next phase, which is tentatively to begin on July 14, the library plans to allow the patrons inside the library for browsing and pickup of the books. They would also have seniors-only hours in the mornings. The library has bought carts that will be placed along the book aisles and the patrons would be asked to put the books they pick up for browsing in those cart, and not back on the shelves. These books will go into quarantine before going back out on the shelves. Other measures like signage, one-way traffic, one-person per aisle, removal of study and lounge spaces and sufficient hygiene supplies for patrons would be implemented.

Willner insisted that this plan, although approved by the board and presented to the council, might still change depending on the evolving situation.

“We really have to brainstorm before making any decisions on any phases, on how we implement those services and just ensure the safety of our staff and our community,”said Willner.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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