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Libraries reopen with rules in place

Herman Brown Free Library reopens

Herman Brown Free Library patrons are asked not to reshelve books but rather place them on carts so library staff can clean them before putting them back out. The Burnet library, along with the Marble Falls Public Library, reopened May 4. The Joann Mitte Cole Memorial Library in Bertram is reopening May 7. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

When the first few patrons stepped through the Herman Brown Free Library entrance May 4, Director Florence Reeves couldn’t help but smile.

“It felt so good, so good,” she said. “We’ve been serving by curbside, but it’s just not the same thing as welcoming people into the library.”

Marble Falls Public Library Director Amanda Rose shared similar thoughts.

“We had staff at the door greeting people, and it was wonderful to see those patrons come in,” she said of the facility also reopening last Friday.

After a shift to online and curbside services only in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, libraries are returning to more “normal” operations with restrictions and protections in place for patrons and staff. Libraries were included in Phase 1 of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas, which began May 1.

Like other non-essential businesses and restaurant dining rooms under Phase 1, a library must restrict patrons to 25 percent of the facility’s capacity.

Highland Lakes libraries are taking extra steps toward keeping staff and patrons safe.

Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library in Bertram is implementing a grab-and-go model when it reopens May 7.

“We’re going to try and limit people to 30 minutes in the library,” Director Ann Brock said. “Hopefully, they’ll have an idea of what they’re looking for or what they need.”

The first thing Herman Brown Free Library patrons will see when entering is a bottle of hand sanitizer on a table. Reeves said the library is asking each person to use the sanitizer as they come in. Scattered around the facility are more bottles of sanitizer.

Both the Marble Falls and Burnet libraries are limiting computer use. Burnet library patrons are directed to one of two staffed stations: one for materials checkout and one for all other needs.

“We’re trying to do everything we can so (people are) not stacked up on each other,” Reeves said.

The Burnet library has some self-checkout stations and search computers available, all of which are frequently cleaned.

Patrons are asked to maintain a safe distance from people not in their family or group.

Rose said the Marble Falls library is sanitizing books more stringently. In Burnet, patrons are being asked not to reshelve books themselves but rather place them on carts so staff can clean them before putting them back.

“We’ll also continue to quarantine our books after they come in, clean them, and make sure enough time has passed so any virus on them is gone before we put them back out,” Reeves said.

The directors of all three libraries know some might be apprehensive about coming inside, so curbside services will remain in place.

“We want them to be comfortable and feel safe,” said Brock of the Bertram library.

She’s looking forward to reopening on May 7.

“I miss our people,” she said. “I’ve been here going on 32 years in July, and I know so many of these people. I just love helping them find something they need, whether it’s a book to read or a computer to get on the internet with.”

All three libraries are open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.