The Fraser Valley Regional Library is targeting an August reopening of all its libraries, including its libraries in Tsawwassen, Ladner and North Delta, but if they can will open sooner if it is safe to do so.
FVRL CEO Scott Hargrove said the big question across the country is when libraries can reopen their doors to the public amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been providing services pretty much throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hargrove. “Although our physical doors have been closed to the public, we have continued to provide a number of services to the public. We started the virtual programs, beefed up our electronics collection, things like e-books, audio books, access to streaming video services. All of those have seen massive increase in use. Depending on the type of media – 40 to 50 per cent since this started. We also started doing curbside pick-up about three weeks ago. This has been hugely well used. Within the first two weeks we had 70,000 people who came to pick up their holds and materials.”
He said a few libraries have reopened to the public in B.C. including one in Grand Forks, with very limited services as well as Coquitlam Public Library, which opened last week.
“The challenges for all of us has been the availability of PPE,” he said. “The major challenge is Plexiglass and we have an order out for all our libraries, which we expect to get back in the next two weeks. Another issue is the question of materials. So we have an issue whether materials could be infected. The research on this came out from library services just last week and they advise a three-day quarantine, which we have done from the beginning.”
He said possibly a reduction in quarantine time may come in July.
“The reason that matters for us in particular is in order to handle all the materials is we are using the space that is generally occupied by the public to store it,” he said. “Quarantine materials for three days when you have between 12,000 and 18,000 books and items returned every day – that takes up a tremendous amount of room as well as all the holds through the FVRL express pick-up, so what we have to do is manage that transition through to opening our doors while ensuring we have the additional space to hold those quarantine materials.”
Hargrove said the target month to reopen to the public is August.
“It’s not trivial. This is very consistent across the country especially for large libraries,” he said. “Each library is different in terms of size, configuration, so to determine occupancy requirements, gate control when we reopen to the public to ensure we have social distancing – all of those things require lots of planning as well.
“If we can open safely, respecting health and safety requirements, health authorities, WorkSafeBC – any of the various agencies we are working with – yes we will open the earliest possible time we can,” he said. “We know there is a demand out there and we want to have our patrons and customers back in the library.”