EVERETT — For the first time since spring, bookworms could soon get to browse the aisles of local libraries and thumb through the pages of prospective titles.
When that will actually happen is hard to say.
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee released guidelines for libraries to reopen — at limited capacity — after months of online services and curbside book pickups and dropoffs. In Snohomish County, library administrators are working through the new rules, with hopes of soon reopening. However, there’s no timeline for when that will be.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time,” Everett Public Library Director Abigail Cooley said. “Safety is still the priority.”
The same goes for Sno-Isle Libraries, which has 24 locations, including branches in Arlington, Brier, Darrington, Edmonds, Everett, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Marysville, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Snohomish, Stanwood and Sultan.
“As we near the seven-month mark since closing our libraries in response to the pandemic crisis, we are cautiously optimistic,” Sno-Isle Libraries Director Lois Langer Thompson said in a news release.
For many, a local library is the one of few places to access the internet or use a printer. To others, it provides a sense of community.
“I definitely see the need to allow people back in to our buildings,” Cooley said. “People do view the library as a lifeline, in many ways. We’re not just a depository for books.”
The new rules for libraries mirror guidance for other industries operating during the pandemic.
With Snohomish County in Phase Two of the governor’s Safe Start plan, libraries can operate at 25% capacity. For Phase Three counties, it’s 50%.
Staff also have to create a plan for distributing masks and other equipment for employees, screening visitors for COVID symptoms and mitigating a possible outbreak.
Buildings must be frequently cleaned and have signage telling visitors to wear a mask and how to properly distance themselves from others.
Administrators are encouraged to provide contact-free checkouts and reserve some business hours for vulnerable populations.
Access to computers and other shared spaces, like study rooms, is permitted under the new guidance, if library administrators choose to offer it.
In Everett, Cooley and her team haven’t decided which in-person services they’ll offer, she said. Additionally, the reopening could come in phases, with one branch welcoming visitors back before another. That also means different hours, or days, of operation.
“I wish I had more information,” she said. “But the pandemic has forced all of us to be flexible and adapt. We’re looking at solutions, too, beyond the in-person services.”
The library launched an online program where you tell a library your preferred genres and they recommend a slew of books to match your interests.
For tech help, her staff is assembling Chromebooks and hot spots that guests can rent. Cooley hopes to have that program running by the end of fall, she said.
Both the Everett Public Library and Sno-Isle Libraries, will continue curbside pickup and dropoff.