Yakima Valley Libraries will reopen all 17 library locations for limited in-
person services beginning March 1 now that Yakima County is in Phase 2 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan.
Per guidelines for libraries from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, it’s again allowable for Washington libraries to open buildings to the public on a limited basis, library officials said in a Thursday news release. It will be the first time all library buildings have been open since the pandemic started nearly a year ago.
But this is not a return to pre-pandemic library operations, said Kim Hixson, executive director. For example, in-person library programming won’t resume, nor will interlibrary loan requests, library officials said.
“And in order to safely offer in-person services, library staffing and building open hours have been modified to account for the additional workload necessary to meet all required health and safety guidelines,” Hixson said.
People can continue to use curbside pickup service for items on hold.
Yakima County, along with the other South Central region counties of Kittitas, Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla, moved to Phase 2 of the state Roadmap to Recovery plan Sunday.
The library system reopened three community libraries for limited in-person service in November and December — West Valley, Wapato and Sunnyside — before closing them again in January when Inslee introduced the newest Roadmap to Recovery. At that point, the state’s eight regions were in Phase 1 and the library system was permitted to provide only curbside services.
With the move into Phase 2, building access will be limited to 25% or less maximum occupancy, and all staff plus patrons over the age of 5 years old must wear a face covering or mask that meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines while inside.
In-person library visits will be limited to 30 minutes per person, per day and staff and patrons should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, officials said.
Building access will be metered and staff will monitor the number of patrons in the building. Some may need to wait for others to leave before they can enter.
A limited number of public computers will be available for public use, with sessions limited to 30 minutes per day, and library staff can’t provide any computer assistance that requires contact within 6 feet or less.
Staff will continue to follow previously-established sanitization guidelines, which include regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces and a 48-hour quarantine of all library returns. People should return all library materials using outdoor book returns wherever possible.