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St. Louis Public Library has soft reopening as others plan March returns

St. Louis Public Library has soft reopening as others plan March returns

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Central Library

Looking west down Olive Street from Tucker, the Central Library branch of the St. Louis Public Library is in the foreground on Friday, July 27, 2018. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com

A day after some library branches were used as voting sites, the St. Louis Public Library has quietly reopened to the public.

After months of pandemic-related closure, the library opted for a soft reopening Wednesday so staff could adjust to serving patrons again, director Waller McGuire said.

Other St. Louis-area library systems plan to reopen their doors later this month. The St. Louis County Library is still working on details. It won’t announce its reopening date until after a midmonth meeting with its board of trustees, said Kristen Sorth, the library director.

The St. Charles City-County Library is also waiting to announce a date until after a board meeting.

Sorth said these three systems and the Municipal Library Consortium directors have been collaborating on plans and concerns.

The county library has also been in “close contact with the county health department, making decisions based on science and data,” she said in a phone interview.

Of course most librarians and staff have been working since the pandemic started, but for months that has largely meant curbside pickups and online downloads for patrons. Patrons have not been able to go into most city and county branches since about Thanksgiving, when cases of COVID-19 escalated.

But with cases falling, the library directors now believe it’s safe to start offering some limited in-building hours. Reopening dates will be forthcoming.

Over the past year, McGuire said, 11 city library staff members were diagnosed with COVID-19, but contact tracing showed they did not get the virus through work.

The libraries will continue using social-distancing practices, limiting the number of people in buildings and requiring masks. Returned books and other materials are “quarantined” for a time before being put back into circulation.

In St. Louis, library website says that patrons are now allowed in the building for 30 minutes (60 if using a reserved computer).

It also says:

“Hours for in-person service will be 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, 1-7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Baden, Barr, Buder, Cabanne, Carondelet, Carpenter, Central, Charing Cross, Divoll, Julia Davis, Kingshighway, Machacek, Marketplace, Schlafly and Walnut Park. Central Express hours will be 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“In addition to in-building service, Curbside Pickup will continue to be offered at all locations, excluding Charing Cross, Central Express and Marketplace.

“Public restrooms will be open, but water fountains will remain closed. Seating areas and meeting areas will remain closed, and all in-person programming remains canceled.

“Both Customers and Staff must wear masks inside the Libraries at all times. This applies to all individuals five (5) years of age and older. Unfortunately, SLPL will have to refuse admittance to anyone not wearing a mask. Masks will be available for those who do not have one. Customers and Staff will also be expected to practice social distancing within the buildings.”


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