Elgin library, two branches reopening Monday with changes
The Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin and its two branches will reopen July 6 with strict requirements for patrons, including wearing face coverings, physically distancing and having children under age 13, up from age 8, accompanied by a caregiver.
The library board had a special meeting Monday to approve reopening with capacity limits and a slew of measures such as less furniture, closed meeting and study rooms -- with some exceptions -- and having patrons ask for materials from the early learning center.
The main library will have a limit of 250 people. There will be a maximum 40 people at the Rakow branch in Elgin and 20 people at the South Elgin branch.
"Our concern is the safety of social distancing with children. We are trying to open in the safest manner possible," library spokeswoman Denise Raleigh said. "This is our best strategy for opening."
"It's really bare bones as a library goes," Executive Director Carole Medal said.
Board members said they know reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit in Phase 4, might provoke anxiety in some people. Trustee Patricia Harkin said she's comforted by the fact the cases of the disease have been decreasing in Illinois.
Tracy Hanson, senior customer relations team leader, told the board she believes most staff members are eager to reopen.
"We have your back to the extent that we can," board President Jean Bednar said.
The library reopened earlier in June for drive-up services and computer use by appointment, particularly important for those who have to fill out forms for court, housing, unemployment and job searches, Medal said.
Circulated materials returned by patrons are being quarantined for three days based on research done by the Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums project, Medal said. Trustee Amanda Garcia asked about the risk of patrons touching materials while browsing. Medal said most libraries are not concerned about that, although a few have closed its stacks to the public.
Under the new rules, the main library will close an hour early so staff members can clean their spaces, in addition to cleaning throughout the day and employing a cleaning service.
The main library also will be open only to "vulnerable populations" -- seniors and people with medical conditions at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 -- for the first hour Monday to Thursday. Those measures are being finalized at the two branches.
The library will make accommodations for those who are medically prevented from wearing face coverings, Medal said. Others who don't want to wear them -- except children under age 2 -- will be asked by security to leave, she said.