Cook Memorial Library officials say a gradual reopening is likely once they get the green light from the state

With their two buildings closed for more than a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cook Memorial Public Library District officials are developing plans to resume traditional patron services.

Rather than throwing open the doors of the Cook Park Library in Libertyville and the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills and setting on-site staffing and programs at pre-pandemic levels, officials are considering a gradual approach.

But during a board meeting held remotely Tuesday, board President Bonnie Quirke repeatedly stated her desire to offer limited in-person services such as curbside pickup at the two buildings soon — maybe even within two weeks.

People want to get out of their homes, she said, and they need their libraries.

“We are a lifeline to the communities,” Quirke said. “And those communities are going crazy.”

Board member Ann Oakley said the library should “set an example” by resuming traditional services.

“Somebody needs to move ahead and start doing something for the morale of the people,” Oakley said.

In response, board member Phyllis Dobbs said improving morale isn't a good enough reason to open the library buildings.

Library Director David Archer presented a multistage plan for resuming services during Tuesday's meeting. Nothing was finalized.

Under Archer's proposal, the library buildings would remain closed to patrons at first. But people would be allowed to check out and return books using drive-up windows or curbside services.

Returned items would be isolated for 72 hours before being handled by staff.

“We want to make sure that materials coming into the library are not infected,” Archer said.

Limited contactless home delivery service would be offered to people who are homebound or facing other challenges, Archer said.

Many employees would continue working at home and hosting programs virtually. Some would work at the libraries in shifts to ensure proper social distancing.

Protective barriers would be installed at drive-up windows and service desks.

Although she wants to see on-site services begin, Quirke insisted she doesn't want the buildings to open yet.

“My thought is, start slow,” she said.

Officials at other suburban libraries are trying to figure out when and how to roll out in-person services, too.

Like their colleagues at Cook Memorial, officials at Mundelein's Fremont Public Library have discussed resuming services in phases, too. But Director Scott Davis said it's premature to release detailed plans.

Officials at Lincolnshire's Vernon Area Public Library have been trying to determine what in-person services might be safe if the stay-at-home order eases, too.

Still, spokeswoman Catherine Savage said staffers have been concentrating more on meeting the community's current needs than resuming pre-pandemic operations.

“It might be a while before it is actually safe,” Savage said. “We're focused on now. We'll worry about later, later.”

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