The East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) Board of Trustees met on Jan. 20 to discuss plans and protocols to reopen in-person services, progress on the cultural diversity audit of its books, and plans for renovating the library building.
The library has a tentative plan to reopen on Mar. 1.
Except for a brief period of reopening last fall, the library building has remained closed to the public due to COVID-19.
Many services are still offered, including curbside pickup, 24/7 outdoor lockers for pickup, and access to the entire library catalog, but both Board and community members are eager for the library to begin reopening for in-person service and activities.
Concerns over how to do this safely were discussed at length. Limiting the number of patrons allowed in the building and limitations on the amount of time spent inside were agreed upon by Board members. The Vice President of the Library, Board Diane Goddeeris, suggested an “intermediate” phase before reopening fully, considering worry over staff and community safety.
According to Kristin Shelley, the Director of ELPL, the library already has a phased reopening plan in place and tentative suggestions for new scheduling that closes the library down during mid-afternoon for a few hours to allow for changes in staff and cleaning procedures.
While safety is a priority, so is access to library services. With tax season looming, computer access was cited as an important service that many local patrons rely on. Also, many people simply enjoy visiting the library.
Assistant ELPL Director Brice Bush told the Board that much of the feedback staff received during the brief reopening last fall was about how happy people were to come in and browse the collection to pick something out in person.
Both Shelley and Bush seemed optimistic about the reopening plans and spoke about the fall of 2020 as a model. Shelley said that patrons were largely “respectful” of both the thirty-minute time limit and lowered capacity.
The Board agreed that Mar. 1 seemed a feasible reopening date, giving library staff time to prepare and to observe what is happening as some East Lansing Public School students head back to in-person classes. Board Member Polly Synk pointed out that waiting until March will mean more of the community is vaccinated.
For now, these plans remain tentative. More information on reopening will be discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting in February.
ELPL is conducting a cultural diversity audit on its collections.
ELPL is currently undertaking a cultural diversity audit of its materials, led by the library’s Technical Services Department. ELi spoke to Amber Laude, a Collections and Technical Services Librarian, over email about the process.
“I first noticed diversity audits popping up among school libraries looking to find a way to measure how well their collections represented their communities and had always wanted to conduct one here at ELPL,” Laude wrote, “And this year, we finally managed to add it to the action plan.”
Laude hopes to make this process on-going in order to actively promote a more diverse collection. To do this, Laude stated, “We are primarily looking at diverse character representation and diversity among authors for this audit.”
She said that some of the diverse categories include Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and differently-abled representation.
Once titles are categorized, staff can see whether the collection is representative of both local and national census data. Although the audit is still in early stages, Laude offered some preliminary findings in the youth collections.
“We had better representation than anticipated for BIPOC characters, which we had been making every effort we could to build in recent years,” she said, and “LGBTQIA+ representation is higher than anticipated in the teen collection but lower in the children’s collection.”
According to Laude, ELPL will continue to work to diversify each collection, though the library is often “dependent” on the publishing industry to produce content.
When asked why she and ELPL felt the audit should be conducted, Laude wrote: “Everyone deserves to have access to titles they can identify with. And I also feel that the opposite is true as well. We would be doing our community a disservice if we did not provide a more expansive view of the world and the people in it.”
Also discussed were upcoming updates to the Library building.
A majority of the facilities work will be done in fiscal year 2021, according to Shelley. She estimates the library is facing around $1 million worth of repairs, starting with replacing outdated electrical systems and fixing roofing problems.
The library budget will continue to be amended due to unexpected expenditures from the Covid-19 pandemic, including personal protective equipment and Plexiglas to protect staff.
The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on Feb. 17.
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