All branches of the Dothan Houston County Library System reopened to the public on Monday but with reduced hours and restrictions intended to protect the health of patrons and library staff.
“We’re just trying to stay as safe as possible,” Library Director Cynthia Plesner said. “As long as it is necessary to keep our community safe, then it will be a tentative, slow reopening back to our full services.”
Library hours at the system’s main branch in downtown Dothan and the Westgate branch will be reduced, and both branches will remain closed on Sundays. The Ashford branch is returning to its normal hours and the Bookmobile will resume its regular stops, according to a library system press release.
The limited hours and other restrictions are intended to reduce the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19. Hours may be adjusted as the virus increases or lessens in the community.
Plesner said on Monday that people who came in were happy the libraries had reopened and have been understanding of the need for the restrictions. Plesner said library staff members are glad to be reopened.
“We’re glad to be back helping the community and serving the community and doing what we do best and being able to put resources and information out into the community,” she said.
Library branches will be limited to no more than 50 patrons at one time and no extended stays or social gatherings will be allowed anywhere on library property, the press release stated. Patrons are also encouraged to wear masks when they visit.
Returned library materials will be quarantined for 72 hours before becoming available for check-out.
“We’re disinfecting everything that comes back in,” Plesner said.
Because the U.S. Department of State has limited passport operations, the only passports that will be processed at the library are applications for patrons with a qualified life or death emergency and who are in need of a passport to travel within 72 hours.
Remaining restrictions deal with how people use the library with in-library services limited to the check-in and check-out of materials and computer usage. Patrons will be allowed to print, make copies, scan, fax, or have documents notarized.
Chairs and loungers will either be restricted or removed, and use of library computers will be limited to two hours as will the use of personal devices such as laptops.
You can browse for books, but patrons are asked to place items they don’t want in designated carts. The use of library study rooms and the local history room will be prohibited. All other programs, events and meeting room reservations will be canceled until it is deemed safe to congregate in large groups.
And, finally, minors under the age of 19 must have at least one parent or guardian present.
Plesner said announcements will be made regarding the system’s summer reading programs and other learning events hosted by the library system.
“All of our summer reading programs … will all be smaller or virtual programming or pickup make-and-takes,” Plesner said. “So, people can come into the library, pick up an activity, download the instructions electronically or watch a video or the instructions come with the little packet or kit.”