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Jackson County libraries will reopen in stages

Jackson County Library Services has a plan to gradually reopen libraries, but the timeline will depend on COVID-19 developments.

All 15 branches closed March 20 as part of efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

On Friday, JCLS launched a new front door book pick-up service at branches. Patrons are able to wait outside and library staff members bring out books people placed on hold before the system closure.

The library system sends out email notifications when holds are available for pick-up. A schedule for pick-up hours at each branch is at jcls.org/hours_locations.

On Friday, May 8, book fans can use JCLS’s website at jcls.org to start putting new holds on books.

“There were so many books on hold when we had to close down. There’s been a lot to do to catch up and be able to take on new holds. We needed to get the existing holds out the door,” said JCLS marketing coordinator Ryan Bradley.

The launch of pick-up service means the library system has actually entered Stage 3 of its six-step reopening plan, which was adopted in late April by the JCLS board of directors.

During Stage 1, only online and digital materials and programs were available.

Many library workers have been on administrative leave, although branch managers have been maintaining individual branches, the Information Technology Department has been updating systems, adult and youth services librarians have been planning and presenting virtual programs and designing an all-virtual summer reading program, and the Digital Services Team has been helping patrons start using digital material for the first time, according to Claudine Taillac, JCLS assistant director of public services.

Workers did their jobs remotely when possible, Bradley said.

In Stage 2, library buildings opened to staff only. Workers began preparing for the next stage by taking materials to different branches, pulling books on hold off shelves and preparing to launch pick-up service.

The Stage 3 front door pick-up phase marks the first cautious step toward offering physical items.

“We’re just really excited to be at a point where we’re able to get back to some level of personal and physical services and get books back in the hands of patrons,” Bradley said. “We have materials online, but people are very passionate about physical books and visiting libraries in person.”

At some point, branches will eventually shift to Stage 4, when patrons will be able to pick up materials on hold inside library branch lobbies if there’s enough space. Branches will start offering limited access to computers.

In Stage 5, all library buildings will reopen to the public, but the number of people allowed inside will be limited based on the size of each branch. There won’t be any in-person library programs or public use of meeting rooms.

Stage 6 will bring a return to full library services, although those will be subject to any new health and safety rules and guidelines.

The staged reopening plan was put together after staff members researched what other libraries in Oregon and across the country are doing to reintroduce library services.

All the stages include ramped-up cleaning, disinfecting and safety measures.

Library staff members wear masks when interacting with each other and the public, wash their hands frequently and disinfect their own work areas at the beginning and end of each shift. Work stations are set up to accommodate physical distancing.

Workers will wear gloves when emptying book drop-off containers and put newly returned materials in quarantine for 48 hours.

Patrons are now encouraged to start returning the books they checked out before the library system closure. Because the closure came so quickly and unexpectedly, the public was initially asked to hold onto any materials they had checked out.

When patrons do come back inside libraries, they’ll see furniture that’s been rearranged to establish physical distancing. Library staff members will wipe down computer keyboards and work station surfaces after each patron use.

The branches will also increase janitorial rotations of cleaning and disinfecting, especially on high-touch surfaces like door handles, railings, tables and counters.

Bradley said the COVID-19 crisis has been a massive learning experience for the library system.

As COVID-19 conditions evolve, library workers are pivoting to meet new challenges and adapt, Bradley said.

“We’re still learning things. We’ve talked a lot about how this process got us to the point where if we face another crisis again, we’re so much more ready because of what we’ve learned,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneBethanie Reymer picks up her books at the Medford library Friday afternoon.