By Weber County Board of Trustees

On Tuesday evening, the Board of Trustees of the Weber County Library met for its monthly meeting to review plans for the public re-opening on May 11th. We entered through a tented area where a staff person did a remote temperature check. Immediately inside the door was a table with individually packaged masks in ziplock bags and a gallon of pump hand sanitizer. Each of us was already wearing a mask, but hand sanitizing was expected. The meeting room was set up in advance to accommodate Zoom attendees and socially distanced board members, staff, our librarian, attorney and tech advisor. It was my first experience with a meeting that followed all of the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Weber/Morgan Health Department, and our governor.

Two things I missed. First, it was impossible to drink from the water bottle provide each of us. Second, it was also impossible to discern the expressions of the various mask-wearing speakers who spoke so sincerely about their desire to open the five Weber County libraries as models of safe spaces for our community. Our libraries will be the first along the Wasatch Front to open to the public since statewide closure because of the pandemic.

I have been on many community boards in the past, but I have never worked with a group more committed to its mission. Our libraries are not just book repositories, because their mission is to empower each member of our community with a sense of personal worth and the self-confidence to fulfill a life plan, pursue personal goals and achieve happiness. The question that the library staff has been working so hard to address is how to accomplish this lofty mission during the coronavirus chapter of our lives.

The answer is a partnership between the library facilities/staff and you, its public patrons. In this post-re-opening period, the library must function differently. Still, your libraries welcome you with full understanding of your pent-up need to participate in activities that feel like normal life. So, during the weeks of closure, the staff members have reconfigured seating areas, computer stations, check out counters, entrances and directions for movement in the stacks, in an attempt to keep you safe when you are in the buildings. They have practiced vigorous cleaning and sanitizing regimens which will continue as the buildings open. All of these efforts require your cooperation in following rules and guidelines that serve to protect you and the staff and ensure that the libraries can remain open for your future enjoyment. Be aware that if these rules are not followed, the libraries may have to reclose.

Like the Board of Trustees, you will have to wear masks, allow temperature checks, use hand sanitizers and accept the limitations that the pandemic has imposed on all of us. This safe-space strategy that the library has adopted as an alternative to lockdown has been proven to work in various places around the world.

What you will miss most is seeing the smile behind the masks of the staff who so gladly assist you. But those smiles are there. When we all pitch in to help, it will shorten the time until the masks can come off and we can safely hug each other once again.

Enjoy your library.

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