Library to Reopen on First of March With Covid-19 Protocols in Place

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

The library will allow patrons to enter for up to one hour starting on Mar. 1.

The East Lansing Public Library Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to reopen the library building to the public on Mar. 1 and thus return to Phase 4 of the library’s reopening plan.

Since reopening and subsequently closing the building to patrons in October and November of 2020, respectively, the library has been in Phase 3 of the reopening plan. Phase 3 allows for curbside pickup and mailing of materials but does not permit patrons in the building.

With an approved reopening plan, the library will be open during the following hours each day.

  • Monday through Thursday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Saturday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: Closed

The three hour gap in the afternoon of the Monday through Thursday hours — from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. — is to allow time for staff to clean and disinfect the library after the morning shift, Library Director Kristin Shelley said to trustees. She also said that the later times accommodate people who might otherwise not have time to go to the library.

Board President Lance Wilkinson agreed, saying he “appreciates the shift to later hours.”

Shelley also cited a statistic from a study — she did not provide specifics about its origins — that during the pandemic, library patrons across the country are spending 18 minutes, on average, in a library building. She said that during the ELPL’s reopening in late 2020, patrons spent, on average, 15 minutes in the building.

The current reopening plan has some notable deviations from the Phase 4 reopen in October. The time limit for patrons to stay in the building has doubled, from 30 minutes to an hour. The same applies to using the computers — patrons will have up to an hour. The board also approved a change to allow a maximum of two people in the small study rooms.

All of those changes, Shelley explained, are to aid people who use the library for doing their taxes — either on one of the computers or meeting with an AARP tax preparer in one of the small rooms — and for people who are currently trying to file for unemployment or apply for jobs.

“I think it’s a good proposal,” Trustee Amy Zaagman said.

Shelley also provided the Board with a financial update and spoke to the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget, which spans from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. Shelley noted that she was “very conservative” about the revenues due to the pandemic. She also said the budget for FY22 is balanced.

The library is currently planning to spend around $800,000 on needed facilities work, which Shelley said on Wednesday will take place in both FY 2021 and FY 2022. That is being paid for out of the library’s operating fund, which comes almost entirely from millages.

The improvements, save for work on a section of roof, have not been bid out yet, Shelley told ELi in an email. She said the hope is to begin work sometime in spring, specifically in March for the roof work.

“All of this is, of course, dependent on the weather,” Shelley wrote.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Wilkinson expressed his gratitude to Shelley for positioning the library to be able to afford this facilities work.

“Thanks to you for your foresight on these expenses,” Wilkinson said.

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