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 Plexiglass has been added to the circulation desk

Plexiglass has been added to the circulation desk

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Public Library


Library reopens with new safety restrictions, occupancy limits

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 7, 2020

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ROCHESTER HILLS — After months of being closed, the Rochester Hills Public Library reopened to the public July 6 with an occupancy limit of 180 patrons and additional safety restrictions in place.

The move takes the library into phase three of its reopening plan, which library Director Juliane Morian said outlines five phases based on COVID-19 activity in the community, allowing it to pivot back to previous phases if COVID-19 cases should rise and new shutdowns are announced.

“The reason we did the phases is so we could develop a strong workflow for every phase that we moved through — knowing full well that we have our eyes focused on moving forward, but we could pivot backward if we had to. If there was a new spike and surge in cases in our community, we might have to move between phases from time to time,” she said.

The most restrictive phase, phase five, allows for virtual library access only; phase four opens the drive-thru; phase three opens the building with public access limits and adds in the grab-and-go service; phase two further opens the library with social distancing in place but, hopefully, no occupancy limits; and phase one allows full access and no restrictions, according to Morian.

“I don’t see us getting to phase one until there is a vaccine,” she said.

The move to phase three allows patrons to enter the library for a grab-and-go service, where visitors can browse the shelves and check out items to enjoy at home. During this phase, Morian said, public computers are available for limited times and must be reserved through a librarian, and virtual and outdoor and take-away programming are also offered. She said seating is limited, all study and meeting rooms are closed, the computer lab and the makerspace room are closed, and toys, puzzles, water fountains, vending machines and other frequently touched items are not available in phase three.

“What we wanted to do was maximize those services and those resources in the library that are the most popular. We decided to offer grab-and-go as a way to allow people to browse our shelves — not just have to place holds and access them through the drive-thru — so they are able to come into the library, have that physical experience, and have a degree of browsing, so they can make an informed decision about what they want to take home. What we’re not encouraging is for people to stay and linger long in the library,” Morian said.

The Rochester Hills Public Library’s Bookmobile is also returning to the road on Monday, July 13, for grab-and-go service under phase three of the library’s reopening plan. With grab-and-go service, the Bookmobile will serve as a location to pick up items requested from the main library. Item checkouts will be processed through the Bookmobile’s passenger-side window.   

“For some of those living in senior living facilities we visit or are farther from the library, the Bookmobile may be their first opportunity to experience the library since it has started offering drive-up service,” Mary Davis, the library’s outreach services manager, said in a statement.

Returning visitors can also expect a number of additional restrictions and changes when they enter the library.

When in the building, everyone 2 years old or older is required to wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth. Library officials said disposable face masks will be available at the entrance for those who do not have one. Those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons may use the drive-thru services to pick up library items.

Patrons must also maintain distancing of 6 feet or more from anyone outside of their household. To help with social distancing, the library’s lobby entrances are marked with arrows for visitors coming into the library and those exiting the library. The staircase is marked with arrows for going up and coming down, and floor stickers are in place to help visitors maintain safe distances while standing in line.

“We’ve prioritized really achieving that 6-foot distance by moving furniture around. Some things have actually been removed from the floor, so it has a much more clean and streamlined feel to allow for very wide access and very wide aisleways throughout the library,” Morian explained.

To help prevent the spread of germs, all high-touch surface areas are regularly disinfected by library staff, and plexiglass dividers have been installed at all reference and circulation desks.

The library has also increased ventilation throughout the building, placed touchless hand sanitizer stations throughout, and has begun setting aside library items returned through the drop box and automated return for up to 72 hours before recirculating to the public.

Rochester Hills Public Library Board of Trustees President Madge Lawson said the board is pleased that with all the public and staff safety measures in place, the public can again visit the library with confidence.

“We hope the public will do their part by respecting our guidelines,” Lawson said in an email.

“We want to thank Library Director Juliane Morian and her dedicated staff for their thoughtful and rigorous efforts to make this reopening possible.”

Visitors are still encouraged to continue using the library’s many online resources, as well as its drive-thru services and automated return. Morian said many library needs can also be handled by calling (248) 656-2900 or emailing the library’s management team using the “contact us” form at rhpl.org.

The library is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.

For more information about the Rochester Hills Public Library’s response to the novel coronavirus, visit rhpl.org/covid-19 or call (248) 656-2900.

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