“It’s going to look very different,” said Director Carrie Valdez, standing in the currently-closed Grand County Public Library.
While library services have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, the building has been closed to the public. Librarians have served the public through curbside services, expanded wi-fi coverage in outdoor areas and live-streamed events to keep residents engaged while protecting public health.
However, library staff noticed that for some residents, these physically-distanced services weren’t enough.
“It’s really an issue of the digital divide,” said Valdez, referring to the gap in some residents’ access to online resources and technological tools.
Valdez said that they had heard from many in the community that relied on the library’s computers, printers and other devices to go online, complete important paperwork and more.
As one method of addressing this gap, the library doubled its stock of Chromebook laptop computers and portable wireless internet hotspots. While these tools can help those without dedicated internet service access, the demand has been so high that there is still a lengthy waiting list to rent the devices.
Not only that, but Valdez notes that some residents don’t have the technological know-how to use those tools.
To address the community’s needs, beginning next week the library will reopen the building on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for visits of 30 minutes or less.
Curbside service will continue Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Curbside service has proven so popular I doubt we’ll ever stop,” said Valdez.
She cautioned visitors to be aware that the building reopening was not a return to “normal.”
“It’s going to be a very different library than the library of just a few months ago,” said Valdez.
Chairs and couches in common areas have been removed, only 15 patrons will be allowed in the building at a time and masks will be required for everyone. Unaccompanied children will not be allowed and public restrooms will remain closed.
“We had a lot of conversations about accessibility being weighed against safety,” said Valdez, who reported that the new guidelines were approved by the library’s board of directors, the Grand County administration, Moab Regional Hospital, the Southeast Utah Health Department and the Grand County Attorney’s Office.
“We’d love for the library to return to being a place to be, but for now it’s a place to do,” said Valdez, who emphasized that the building was not being opened for browsing or socializing.
She did indicate that the limited building hours may be expanded depending on demand and staff availability.
However, she also noted that if statewide guidance changes due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, the building could be closed again.
“We’re just like everyone else,” Valdez said, “figuring it out bit by bit and day by day.”
The Moab Recreation and Aquatics Center also announced a partial reopening beginning Friday, June 26.
The indoor and outdoor pools will be open five days a week, closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lap swim at the indoor pool will be available from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and open swim and the outdoor pool will be open from 2 to 6 p.m.
“The schedule will be limited for a while,” MRAC staff commented in a social media post.
The fitness center portion of the building will remain closed and no classes will be held.
In a statement, MRAC administration reported that the facility will follow safety guidelines for pools contained in the statewide Utah Leads Together plan. Moab is currently designated “Yellow” or low-risk, which contains guidance for pools and waterparks that includes physical distancing and required wearing of masks “when physical distancing requirements cannot be met.”