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Washoe County Library System announces phased reopening plans for summer


Washoe County Library System announced what library goers can expect for summer 2020, with a four-part plan.

Phase one is currently underway and is estimated to end on Monday. Libraries remain closed to the public during this phase.

Library staff are continuing to work remotely, and preparing for the Virtual Summer Reading Program beginning June 1. All staff must be provided a Chromebook and internet hotspot if needed. All physical programming is closed through August 31. 

Staff who need to perform in-person work are permitted inside, but must wear masks and gloves, and wipe surfaces after each use.

Libraries are instructed to create a plan for personal protective equipment and prepare for re-entry of staff.

Phase two is estimated to begin on June 1 and end mid-June. During this phase library assistants and aids are permitted to enter the building, but libraries must have their PPE plan in place, and a sufficient amount of PPE for staff.

Book drops will open and start accepting returns starting June 8, and will be operating 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Washoe County libraries will remain closed to the public during this phase.

Provided by Washoe County Library System.

Phase three is expected to start in mid-June and end July 1. Washoe County libraries will remain closed to the public during this phase as well.

Some libraries will offer grab-and-go pick up or drive-thru windows services to allow people to pick up materials starting June 15. Library goers are asked to use self-checkout and limit interactions with staff. Washoe County Library System has a list of which branches are offering these services.

Additionally, WiFi will be turned on and can be accessed outside of libraries during this phase.

Libraries are estimated to reopen on July 15 during phase four. 

Furniture and computers must be spaced six feet apart with social distancing signage, staff are required to wear face masks and gloves, library goers will be provided with face masks, surfaces must be cleaned throughout the day and partitions are to be constructed between staff and the public.

Book drops are to sit for 24 hours before items are returned to the shelves. Fines also will not be collected to limit interactions between staff and the public. Library goers must use self-checkout for materials. 

Washoe County libraries have around 10,000 visits by residents per day and are a place for public gathering, making the decision to reopen libraries challenging, Washoe County Library System said in their statement

Washoe County Library System is worried about how many safety precautions staff can reasonably enforce if there is noncompliance.

“When examining each phase of the Governor’s plan the Library System faces numerous challenges, such as the current Washoe County hiring freeze that will limit the Library’s operational ability and the enhanced burden that has been placed on staff to ensure a safe work and library environment,” Washoe County Library System Director Jeff Scott wrote in a statement.

Additionally, vulnerable staff are not able to return to the building.

Washoe County Library System leaders also have concerns about the ability to limit capacity inside the library, noting that it would require additional staff to work at the entrance to provide a headcount, and limit who can come in. 

There are 50-100 people who wait at library doors before the building reopens, on average, and staff cannot manage crowds of that size, Washoe County Library System said in their statement.

The different phases in Washoe County Library System’s reopening plans are fluid and may change.

Lucia Starbuck
Lucia Starbuck
Lucia Starbuck is a graduate of University of Nevada, Reynolds School of Journalism. She has reported on issues impacting Northern Nevada, including the affordable housing crisis, a lack of oral healthcare and challenges voters with disabilities face while trying to participate in the election process. She has directed and filmed two documentaries about homelessness.Through reporting, Lucia strives to shine a light on the challenges vulnerable populations face in our community.