Lawrence Public Library reopens, but visits are limited and face masks required

photo by: contributed photo

Vanessa Reynaga, youth services outreach specialist with the Lawrence Public Library, and Karen Allen, youth services coordinator, are pictured in front of a shelf filled with books put on hold by library patrons.

The Lawrence Public Library has reopened in a limited capacity, but library leaders say a return to normal operating is still far away.

The library’s meeting areas, study tables and reading corners are gone, and there are limits on the number of visitors and how long they can stay.

Executive Director Brad Allen said the library, at 707 Vermont St., is not ready to return to a place for people to read and gather, but that it wants to ensure a certain level of access to its services.

“What we are doing right now is functioning as a utility rather than a living room,” Allen said. “We don’t think during this current state of the pandemic we should be promoting social gathering.”

Under the new rules, visitors will be greeted by a staff member at the front door and must wear their own mask or facial covering or use disposable masks provided by the library, according to a library news release. In what the library is calling an express service, 50 visitors will be allowed in the library at a time for a limited amount of time depending on the nature of their visit. Visitors are allowed into the building for 15 minutes for browsing, account services and picking up and returning materials, and for 60 minutes to use the computer lab.

photo by: contributed photo

A new book display intended to make browsing easier is pictured at the Lawrence Public Library.

Allen said library staff will not be actively monitoring how much time each visitor stays in the building, but visitors will be asked not to linger and any issues will be addressed by staff should they arise. Visitors are encouraged to browse online first if they are able to, and the library has set up new displays of books, CDs and DVDs with covers facing outward for easier browsing. Plexiglas has been installed at service desks to create a barrier between staff and visitors.

“We’re excited to let people come in the building, and we are trying to do it as safety as we can for everybody,” Allen said.

Most of the library’s main Level will be open, but the lower level, stairs and elevator will remain closed. Allen said the copier, fax machine and printer have been moved upstairs and can now be found in the library’s auditorium along with some computer workstations. The computers have been set up on individual, socially distanced tables. In addition, Allen said the library has increased the airflow in its ventilation system and installed more effective air filters.

photo by: contributed photo

Joel Bonner, Lawrence Public Library technology assistant, and Aaron Brumley, technology coordinator, are pictured in the library’s auditorium, which has been repurposed to serve as a socially distanced computer area.

The express service is the most access visitors have had to the library since the coronavirus outbreak began. To deter spread of the virus, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health initially ordered schools, recreation facilities and public libraries closed March 13. After initially switching to online services, the library later allowed pickup and drop-off of materials, but visitors were not allowed additional access to the building.

With cases continuing to rise locally, Allen said there is no date set yet for when the restrictions will be lifted. He said he anticipates the library will remain in the new format for some time.

The library’s express service will be available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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