Like many public libraries, schools and nonessential businesses, when Yakima Valley Libraries closed to the public in March, we did so with the hope that the closure would be short-lived, and that it would cause the least amount of disruption possible.
But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 — and I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely engaged in more than my fair share of retrospection during 2020.
So, as we slowly but inexorably move toward the close of this marathon-long year, I’m pleased to share that Yakima Valley Libraries will begin a phased reopening of some community libraries for limited in-person library services beginning Nov. 16.
In order to ensure that we are able to effectively evaluate the state-mandated procedures necessary for us to offer in-person library services, we will initially open the West Valley and Sunnyside community libraries on Nov. 16, followed by the Wapato Community Library on Dec. 2.
Beginning Monday, the West Valley Community Library will be open for in-person visits Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Sunnyside Community Library will be open for in-person visits Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
And beginning Dec. 2, the Wapato Community Library will reopen for in-person library services Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
While I know this is welcome and long-awaited news for many community members, I’d like to reiterate that although we are now allowed to permit public building access, this will not be a return to (library) business as usual.
Once we open library doors and begin welcoming the public back, please remember that there are very specific, state-mandated guidelines that we all need to follow to ensure that we can continue on the path to reopening.
First things first: Face coverings must be worn at all times inside library buildings, and community libraries will have a supply of disposable masks available for anyone who needs one.
It’s also important to note that building access will be metered to ensure that we can maintain an occupancy equal to or less than 25 percent of building capacity. This means that when you arrive at one of our reopened libraries, you may need to wait outside until another patron exits the building.
There will be clearly marked social distancing markers outside the buildings, and library staff will provide instructions for your wait in the event that a building is at capacity.
In addition, one of the ways we’re planning to safely maximize the number of patrons we’re able to serve is by limiting the length of library visits and public computer access to 30 minutes per person, per day.
Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go before public libraries can return to our role of being a community gathering place, so we respectfully ask that you keep your in-person visits short, and supplement those visits by also using our contact-free pickup service whenever possible.
We’re looking forward to safely serving you again soon.
• Krystal Corbray is programming and marketing librarian for Yakima Valley Libraries. She and other library staffers write this weekly column for SCENE. Learn more at www.yvl.org.