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Libraries offer computer use by appointment

The public can once again use computers at four local library branches, but people must make an appointment in advance.

The Medford, Ashland, Rogue River and Eagle Point branches started offering computer access Monday.

“We had a soft rollout to make sure it works. We’ve had a handful of patrons come in so far, and they’ve been appreciative of the computer access,” said JCLS Library Director Kari May.

Appointments begin at the top of each hour and last 45 minutes, she said.

Each person can make one appointment per week, at least for now. Call 541-494-3280 to schedule an appointment.

Offering computer access is part of the library system’s phased reopening of services as Oregon cautiously gets back to business amid the ongoing COVID-19 threat.

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

On May 1, all the branches starting offering front door pick-up service to people who put holds on books online. That service is continuing.

Books can be reserved at jcls.org. A schedule of pick-up hours at each branch is at jcls.org/hours_locations. Patrons are notified when books become available for pick-up.

Although the libraries have continued to offer digital materials throughout the COVID-19 closure, May said checking out physical materials like books and using computers are two of the most popular services with library users.

The four branches now offering computer access are taking health and safety precautions.

Computer work stations have been spaced out in lobbies and meeting rooms.

Appointments are for independent, single-person computer access — so no sharing a computer.

For safety reasons, library staff members can’t offer technology help during the sessions. All surface areas of the computer stations are disinfected after each person’s appointment.

Library staff are wearing masks, and members of the public are encouraged to wear masks as well.

People who feel ill on the day of their appointment should cancel and then wait to reschedule after they’ve recovered.

Each computer session includes the ability to print up to 10 pages for free.

May said patrons traditionally use computers for a wide variety of reasons.

But after unemployment skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis, some uses have become more important than ever.

The libraries offering computer use have resource lists to help people access information on filing for unemployment, looking for a job, completing the 2020 census and connecting to local resources and assistance programs.

An accurate and thorough count of Jackson County residents during the census will help the community get its fair share of funding for schools, hospitals, roads and other needs for the next decade.

Jackson County and most other Oregon counties entered phase one of the state’s reopening plan May 15. Health experts will monitor the results, and counties could move on to phase two of reopening as early as June 5 if COVID-19 cases don’t surge.

Libraries in Jackson County could begin offering limited access inside buildings at that time, May said.

Safety precautions will include adding Plexiglas sneeze guards at service points and setting maximum limits for the number of people who can be in each branch at a time. Those limits will vary by branch size. Patrons will visit self-checkout stations, May said.

Although branches could reopen for book browsing in June, uncertainty about the future prompted library officials to decide JCLS’s summer reading program will be done with virtual reading logs online or via an app.

Other in-person library programs and public use of meeting rooms will also remain off limits.

Kids will be able to drop by and pick up take-and-make craft kits with supplies during the summer reading program.

With adults stuck at home more often, too, the library has expanded its digital offerings, including Creativebug arts and crafts workshops on painting, knitting, sewing, screen printing and more.

Many programs have moved online and are available through Zoom video meetings, including origami lessons, book clubs and the Windows in Time history lecture series.

The last stage of reopening will bring a return of full library services, although those will be subject to any new health and safety rules and guidelines. At this point, no one knows when that will be.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneBranch Manager Michael Grutchfield cleans a computer at the Rogue River library Thursday afternoon.