BELOIT — The Beloit Public Library computer lab opened this week as staff prepares to offer full services on June 8, according to Marketing and Communications Coordinator Amy Mitchell.
On Monday, the library opened its doors to the public for the first time in 11 weeks, offering services in the computer lab, including its copier and fax machines. The library had about 150 members of the public come in on Monday.
To allow for social distancing, only 10 computers have been made available to patrons, each with a 90-minute limit.
“We normally have 25 computers, but we’ve whittled it down to 10 to make sure there is plenty of spacing between users,” Mitchell said.
Use will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and only one person allowed at each computer. Mitchell said those with the library have been meeting with representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to learn how to assist the expected increase in people needing assistance finding jobs with the economic downturn due to COVID-19.
“We know there is going to be a great need, and libraries serve an important role,” Mitchell said.
To make staff available to help safely, one staff member with a laptop on a movable computer cart can view the screens of any of the computer users to help them without having to stand too close.
Beginning next week, June 8, regular services will begin with the exception of programs. Library staff hope to add limited in-person programming by mid-June. Currently, meeting rooms are not open to outside groups.
Even after opening, the library will continue to offer curbside pickup of materials to accommodate individuals who prefer the service over an in-person visit.
Beginning on June 8, curbside pickup will move away from the current appointment-based system to one that will require patrons to park in a designated spot, call and wait for delivery to their cars.
“Currently we have about 200 appointments for curbside service a week,” Mitchell said.
The library also will be offering storybook kits to help families who may be struggling with book ideas as well as craft kits for kids.
“Things are constantly changing and there are so many unknowns. A lot of libraries are moving to virtual summer programming. We are preparing for that,” Mitchell said.
Patrons are asked to follow all City of Beloit and CDC safety precautions, including staying home if they are ill, washing hands frequently, wearing a mask, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Books which are returned continue to be quarantined for 72 hours before returning out to the floor.
“We do have masks if someone forgot one or can’t afford one,” Mitchell added.
The toys and seats have been removed from the children’s area to prevent temptation for children in addition to some of the furniture in the adult area being taken out.
Next week, patrons will use self-checkouts with a staff member at a desk nearby with a computer setup to view the screen.
“Someone may have not used self checkout before so we will be able to ‘see’ without being close,” Mitchell said.
Sneeze barriers will also be erected between staff and the checkout devices as well as barriers set up between customer lines. Each stylus pen will be only used one time before being put in a container to be sanitized.
Capacity limits by city resolution for the library would be 184 persons, and capacity by county guidelines would be 214 persons in the library. Mitchell doesn’t foresee any issues as the library average is 600 to 700 people per day.
Patrons are asked to use the outdoor drive-up book drop until further notice. Also, no book donations are being accepted.
Thanks to the temporary closure to the public, library staff were able to add radio frequency tags to all items and patrons will be able to check out a stack of books at one time at the self-check stations.