Ignacio community members will finally be able to enjoy time inside the town’s library after months of coronavirus-related closures and adapted services.
Following public health guidelines, the Ignacio Community Library, which opened Wednesday, changed its layout, programs and workflow to reduce transmission of the virus. But even as it opened its doors, the Colorado government once again closed bars in response to increased rates of transmission.
For Marcia Vining, library director, the goal is to stay open in as many ways as possible to continue serving the community.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Vining said. “Our hope is that we will continue to provide services, especially if things start shutting down again.”
Gov. Jared Polis re-closed bars Tuesday. For almost two months, La Plata County saw a slow increase in positive COVID-19 cases. But case numbers have increased at a faster rate over the last 10 days. The county had 120 positive cases as of Wednesday.
“It is very much our hope that we don’t completely close because we see the need in the community,” Vining said.
In order to open, the library pledged to follow San Juan Basin Public Health guidelines, such as wearing face coverings indoors. The library will provide some face coverings to offer the public when necessary. The library is also asking community members to maintain social distancing.
Library staff regularly disinfects surfaces and will clean computer areas after each person’s use. They are still “quarantining” library materials for three days before adding them back into circulation, Vining said.
Computers are separated to allow for social distancing and a greeter will be stationed near the front door who will count visitors to ensure the library stays within public health occupancy guidelines. When possible, Vining encouraged families to come in smaller groups to help the library meet those guidelines.
Other libraries in the county have also weighed whether and how to reopen. Pine River Library in Bayfield opened June 22. Durango Public Library remains closed and does not have a reopening date.
The Durango library is understaffed and trying to disinfect the building during use is more challenging in a larger building, said Sandy Irwin, library director.
Challenges remainIn Ignacio, one of the biggest challenges is adapting services to the coronavirus era. The library is a prominent social hub for the Ignacio community, and people rely on it for resource access and social connections.
Some book groups have moved to a nearby park. Library staff members have turned the Maker Lab into take-and-make kits for patrons to borrow. They have assisted people with unemployment applications, notary services and taxes. Staff members started offering individual sessions to help community members learn how to use Zoom, a popular video meeting service.
“Sometimes the feeling is that we don’t have a digital divide anymore, and that’s just not the case,” Vining said. “When you live in rural areas and your access to internet is limited, Zoom meetings only go so far.”
Staff members, however, have gone above and beyond to help families. They have directly called community members to let them know about the summer reading program.
Vining said library staff members are concerned about the increased impacts of the summer slide, when students lose some academic progress while out of school. More than 70 people signed up for the summer reading program, but that’s more than a 25% decrease compared with previous years. Vining attributed the drop to the program’s new online format, a necessity in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s probably one of our biggest frustrations. In a time when people really need some of the programs and things we have done in the past, we’re limited in what we can offer,” Vining said.