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The Minot Public Library reopened to on-site patrons on June 8 with restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first of the state’s four largest public libraries to reopen to visitors.
“We were the first from the big four cities to reopen, and we’re the only one of the big four to have never completely stopped providing services,” said Library Director Janet Anderson. “Throughout all of these changes, we found some great tools that we want to continue to provide to our community.”
The Minot Public Library reopened with limitations on June 8. Bismarck reopened July 6, Fargo reopened July 13, and the Grand Forks Public Library remains closed to the public.
The Minot Public Library’s schedule has changed to accommodate additional cleaning in the facility. The schedule through Labor Day is:
“It’s been pretty manageable,” Anderson said. “We definitely still have and still need the reduced hours. The number of people coming in has been manageable and everyone has been very understanding about the changes.”
The staff uses the hours the library is closed to clean the facility, including wiping down computers, keyboards, and furniture, as well as other items. Returned books are kept in quarantine for 24 hours, sanitized and allowed to dry. Most cloth seating has been replaced by seating with hard surfaces that is easier to clean.
“We’ve increased our cleaning, so that obviously adds to the work load for the staff,” Anderson said. “Someone might have to wait a few minutes while we clean a keyboard, but everyone has been very understanding.”
Anderson said her staff has adapted to the ongoing necessary changes since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“Our staff is amazing. They had no idea what they were getting into,” Anderson said. “I’d suggest that we try something, and they’d be like ‘I’m on it.’ I’d suggest something else, and someone would say ‘Yep, we can do that.’ ”
During the mandated closure because of COVID-19, the Minot Public Library continued to serve the community by providing numerous online services, including video story times, online art classes, and others. Residents could pick up supplies at the library, then use them while watching online classes. The library did take-and-make crafts, too, and provided digital library cards so patrons could have access to online resources. The staff also provided curbside pickup of library materials so patrons could continue to check out resources.
“The biggest thing we realized is that the community really does like us and need us,” Anderson said. “We want to be able to continue to meet the community’s needs.”
Anderson said she and her staff have learned a few things during the shutdown and reopening.
“Communication with the staff and with the community is always a challenge, and that has been more of a challenge,” she said. “When we started curbside pickup, with no restrictions, we realized that was too much too soon simply because of the demands on staff. I learned to take a step back and take things a little slower.”
Some of the changes will likely continue when schedules and other things return to normal – whenever that is, and whatever normal will be, Anderson said.
“I think the virtual stuff has been fun to try out. We can still use many of those alongside our traditional programs,” she said. “And I think many of the cleaning changes will definitely continue.”