Sioux Lookout Public Library has no timetable for reopening
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The Sioux Lookout Public Library (SLPL) has confirmed, at this time, they currently have no timetable to reopen their facility. They said recent COVID-19 cases in the region influenced their decision.
“Every month we have a board meeting. We had our last board meeting for the summer on June 23, and I got some feedback from my board members. I got some direction on where to take things. Ultimately the decision lies with myself, but of course I consult the board and they gave me a lot of feedback. We decided we’re not going to open up anytime soon. There’s no timeline to open up,” said Mike Laverty, SLPL Chief Librarian and CEO.
“I think (the decision) is largely due to the recent COVID cases you see in not just Sioux Lookout but the surrounding area, so we’re thinking about Sioux Lookout and the northern communities. At this time I just don’t think it’s a good decision to open the building up,” he said.
Laverty said the SLPL is currently working hard to prepare, and have safety measures in place, for a reopening.
“The library is doing a ton of work to prepare us for an opening. I’m installing one of those protective glass shields you see everywhere around town so you can engage with people at the front desk. I’m stockpiling on PPE (personal protective equipment), hand sanitizer, and gloves. We bought some temporary barriers, like what you would see in a bank where you can guide people. We’re just thinking of stuff like that. When the library does open, I imagine there will be restricted access to the building, you won’t have access to everything, and it will be a very contained area where one person can get it most likely on an appointment type basis, but I don’t have a definitive timeline,” said Laverty.
In the meantime, Sioux Lookout residents are still able to take books out and pick them up from the library. Laverty said the process is similar to online shopping with residents being able to put a book on hold online and pick it up from the library. He said safety precautions due to COVID-19 will potentially slow down the circulation of books.
“What we’re emphasizing with the community right now is book pick-up at the library… the library is open for book pick-up and we do it at the front door of the library. The way the library is built, that front door is a great place to social distance. Library staff will meet you at the front door, so people are just taking out the books they want and picking them up at the door,” said Laverty.
“It’s a lot like online shopping… I think people are very familiar with that process right now. What you do is you get a library card and then you go to our online catalogue, and that’s just a website that shows you everything that’s in the library. You pick out what you want, and instead of buying it with a credit card you put it on hold onto your library card. As soon as that hold gets generated, instantaneously a library staff member gets a ping, we get a report that says here are your holds for the day, and that’s all our staff are doing. It keeps us really busy.
“We’re just trying to reach as many people as possible, and acknowledge that there’s a lot of concerns with lending out material to people. We are keeping with the procedure of quarantining books and letting them sit. That’s the guidance we’re getting from healthcare organizations and officials… That unfortunately puts a strain on typical library operations, especially for a new release or a popular book that a lot of people want to read. Unfortunately that book needs to sit and breathe for a while before we can put it back into circulation. That’s the precautions we’re taking,” he explained.
Laverty confirmed residents won’t be charged late fees for any material they had during the SLPL’s four-month closure. With book returns now deemed safe late fees and charges will now be applied, but Laverty said the SLPL will be forgiving in those circumstances.
“There was a period of time from March 13, which is the day we closed, to June 12, which is the date libraries were allowed to begin the book pick-up service. Any late fee or charge that occurred during that time period, the library is automatically clearing and nobody owes anything. We’re giving people a grace period because we didn’t know what was going on, and it was unclear if it was okay to bring books back… If you take out a book now and three weeks go by and you don’t bring it back then there will be that late fee associated with your account. The book drop is open 24/7, so we’re working on that. People are going to have grace periods, and we’ll be very forgiving of fines and overdues during this time,” he explained.
During the SLPL’s closure, Laverty was utilizing Facebook and YouTube to provide online content for residents and library card holders. For the time being, the SLPL said they will not be doing any online programing. Laverty said he’s hoping to continue his online outreach, potentially in August, with content that has received positive feedback, such as the community podcast and story time.
“The community podcasts were really well received, so I would love to continue the community podcast concept. I have a couple of guests lined up, so I want to interview them and get those up on the library’s YouTube channel. I think we’ll keep doing that, and we’re still trying to find ways to reach people online. We just submitted a couple of Blueberry Festival events. One of which will be an online art workshop, and then one of which will be a story contest,” he said.
In a Facebook post on July 3, the SLPL said they’re looking for feedback regarding a potential community book club.
“We are thinking about organizing a community book club where we try to get as many people reading the same book as possible. A modest number of say 100 people is achievable and would be a great first step towards something bigger. Finding a great book is step one though! If you'd be interested in help organize and/or participate in something like this please send us a message or email [email protected],” the Facebook post read.
To stay up to date on the SLPL visit their Facebook page @SiouxLookoutPublicLibrary or go to slpl.on.ca.