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August 13th, 2020

library outsideThe outside of Liberal Memorial Library. After many weeks of being closed, the library staff recently announced the building is reopening to patrons, with some extra rules for those who come in. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Libraries throughout the U.S. are extremely important to many people, and Liberal Memorial Library is no exception to that. 

As the COVID-19 numbers began to spike, it was in mid-March when the Executive Board of the American Library Association (ALA) issued its recommendation for libraries to temporarily shut down. 

“Although the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in the United States in January, its dramatic increase this month has presented a host of sudden problems for public libraries nationwide. Amid government-mandated quarantines and widespread misinformation about the virus, libraries have hustled to respond to the crisis in ways that will not harm their patrons or staff. This work has taken place simultaneously with many libraries closing to the public and, often, transitioning to work-from-home models,” the ALA Web site’s April release noted. “On March 17, the Executive Board of the American Library Association (ALA) issued a statement recommending that libraries close to the public due to public health concerns: ‘To protect library workers and their communities from exposure to COVID-19 in these unprecedented times, we strongly recommend that academic, public and school library leaders and their trustees and governing bodies evaluate closing libraries to the public and only reopening when guidance from public health officials indicates the risk from COVID-19 has significantly subsided.’ The statement goes on to acknowledge the difficulty and severity of such actions, but reminds its audience that libraries are ultimately unable to enforce the social distancing measures recommended by the CDC. Following this statement, many state and local governments have expressed mandates that libraries close.”

Following that announcement, and the implementation of Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide stay-at-home order, the library shut down. In the past few weeks, however, the library has been working diligently to remain in contact with patrons via social media videos as well as offering pick-up service starting May 28. 

With numbers starting to decline, the library recently announced it will continue serving patrons and will be opening the building back up. 

“We have been working on a reopening plan since the day after we closed,” Liberal Memorial Library Director Royce Kitts said. “The first consideration was getting a system in place that made staff and patrons as safe as possible, and the other important factor was seeing a drop in active cases in Seward County. We are excited to once again give people the chance to browse the shelves and check out materials. Curbside pick-up is still available for those that like that service. For patrons in at-risk categories, they are able to schedule a time to visit the library before we open for the day.”

New hours for the library are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m, with the building being closed each day from 1 to 2 p.m. for shift change and cleaning. And now that the library has reopened with new hours, Kitts said there are a few things patrons should know regarding their next visit.

“Please wear a mask. We have them if you would like a free one when you come in,” Kitts said. “Also, practice social distancing by maintaining a six foot distance between you and other people. We also ask people to please use hand sanitizer, it is available throughout building. Also, no children under 16 will be allowed in without a parent. And like I said, we are continuing curbside pickup. We are also offering by appointment hours from 9 to 11 a.m. each day for at risk individuals, so please call 620-626-0180 to make an appointment. We have put in temporary plastic barriers, we have staff wearing masks, and we have a new setup for checking out materials that is now contactless. We are wiping down work stations and making sure high contact surfaces are disinfected.”

Kitts added the library building being closed has had a massive effect on this year’s summer reading program. 

“Obviously, this was a hit to our summer reading program, we were able to move the summer reading program to an online program and have had success with that – in fact you can still sign up,” Kitts said. “But we miss the summer reading performers, that is always a highlight of the summer reading program.”

Overall, Kitts said, he is looking forward to seeing the building open again and seeing people in the library. 

“Find an access point to the library and use that to connect with the library again. Give us a call at 620-626-0180 and we can walk you through all the options,” Kitts said. “We look forward to providing the community in-person library service again.”

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