Rhinelander library open; not ‘business as usual’
Staff, patrons adjust to new procedures
By Eileen Persike
“We’ve done this before,” Rhinelander District Library Director Virginia Roberts said, referring to overcoming obstacles. In its more than 100-year history, the library has weathered many disease outbreaks, including the flu pandemic of 1918. Rhinelander District Library (RDL) opens to the public Tuesday, June 30, after being closed for several months due to the world’s newest pandemic, COVID-19. Since 1918 the library, its materials, staff and number of patrons has grown, along with science and medicine, to give Roberts much more to think about.
“People were wondering why we didn’t open sooner,” she said. “It was because first we had to figure out how to open.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance for handling materials and the Wisconsin Valley Library Service created library guidance which Roberts and the other staff used to compile policies that would allow RDL to open safely.
To begin, RDL will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays and noon-6 p.m. Thursdays. A limited number of people will be allowed inside and will be asked to stay no more than 30 minutes.
“We’re going to start small, see how it goes, and then as we’re able to increase, we will,” Roberts said.
Like many public places, there are arrows on the floor directing traffic and hand sanitizer stations, as well as signs indicating two people per aisle at a time, and those asking for social distancing. Any materials touched but not checked out by patrons must be placed on specially-marked carts to be put in isolation. All returned and touched books and other items are placed in boxes and quarantined for 72 hours before being placed back into circulation. All materials must be returned via the book drop.
“We ask people to wear a mask, out of respect for our elders – we have a lot of seniors who come in here,” Roberts explained. “We don’t want to infect them, they don’t want to affect us, so it’s a mutual respect kind of thing.”
Additionally, the staff will not be allowed to assist patrons who are not masked, outside of the checkout desk.
Though the children’s department will be open, only adults are allowed inside for now. All summer reading programs are available, but in different forms. For example, book and craft project bundles for kids can be checked out and done at home instead of at this library this year.
“It was really hard to close,” said Roberts. “This is the antithesis of everything we do. We do in-person service, we do take care of people, we do offer a social place and we can’t offer that right now. It’s grab-and-go.”
Contactless curbside pickup service will continue for the “foreseeable future as the safest way” to access the library’s collection. Curbside pickup is available noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays. The book drop is open 8:30 a.m. Monday through 5 p.m. Friday.
Roberts notes the hours are subject to change. Check the website, rhinelanderlibrary.org or Facebook page for updates and more detailed information.
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