The Durham Public Library (DPL) announced how they plan to approach phase two of their coronavirus (COVID-19) reopening plan. While taking many precautions to keep patrons safe, the library is allowing more people into the building as CDC guidelines have changed.

When COVID-19 lockdown began, DPL completely shut down and adapted to a virtual model. On March 15, 2020 the library closed its doors and by May 18, they only offered an online book pick-up service called, “library to go.” This service was a completely contactless reservation system. By June 2020, the library reopened with many pandemic-related restrictions in place to keep the community and staff safe. They opened the library for limited browsing and that model will remain in place until May 3, 2021.

“On May 3, which will be a Monday, we are going to increase our occupancy in the building and allow twice as many people in, so about 30 people and allow people to come back and stay for a little bit longer,” said Sheryl Bass, the library director for DPL. “We know so much more now than we did when we first started with this pandemic environment back in March, a year ago. We know that with the engineering and administrative controls that we have in place now, we can safely social distance people in the building and we can control what they’re doing in the building to keep the patrons safe and the staff safe.”

Most COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place for phase two of reopening at DPL. The largest change will be maximum occupancy increase and the one-hour time limit for patrons. Masks and social distancing will remain in effect. The library will continue sanitizing the building hourly, and they have a custodian come in daily to deep-clean.

Bass said that the pandemic allowed them to focus on their online presence and reach a new user community.

“I guess you could say the silver lining in all this was taking a look internally and also externally at the user community,” said Bass. When we closed our doors, we really had to shift our model of service to reach out to patrons where they were and that was essentially at home. We then started to push out all this content to patrons, adults through children, so we were pushing out content live through Zoom. The COVID environment definitely made all of us rethink how we serve people.”

While the library’s short-term goal is to get back to normal when it is safe, they are aware that the new normal will incorporate a completely online user community. The library schedule and updated information can be found on DPL’s website.

Photo courtesy of Durham Public Library.