Cordova Public Library reopens with plexiglass and plastic gloves

Plexiglass shields allow librarians to conveniently assist customers with minimal risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. (Sept. 16, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

For Cordova Public Library, reopening wasn’t just a matter of putting a hand sanitizer dispenser by the front door. The library’s front desk, like other desks in the Cordova Center, was enclosed with plexiglass, and new furniture was purchased to allow social distancing.

Library director Debbie Carlson hoped that the library wouldn’t end up looking unwelcoming once all seats had been placed 6 feet apart from one another.

“I was afraid that the place was just going to look so empty, but it doesn’t,” Carlson said. “I’m really happy about that.”

Access to the library is available from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday by appointment. The library closes at noon for cleaning with a fogger using hydrogen peroxide solution. Use of the library’s curbside drop-off services remains strong, and numbers of books checked out remain around the same levels they were at this time last year, Carlson said.

Books returned to the library are quarantined in a box for five days before being checked back in. A policy adopted in May had the library quarantining books for 10 days — however, new data suggest that the novel coronavirus does not survive on book covers for more than a day, as long as those books are stored in the open and not stacked on a shelf. When stacked on a shelf, book covers can harbor the virus for upwards of six days, according to a study by the Institute of Museums and Library Services, and nonprofit groups OCLC and Battelle. Cordova Public Library treats magazines similarly, quarantining them after each read before putting them back on the shelves.

Reading and computer seats have been spread out around Cordova Public Library to facilitate social distancing. (Sept. 16, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The library’s six computers, previously placed elbow-to-elbow at a single bank, have been stationed on desks around the library. Every surface of the computer modules will be wiped with alcohol between uses, including screens, mice and headphones, though it remains to be seen how these devices will stand up to such frequent exposure to alcohol.

The public has responded well to these and other measures implemented in the library to impede the spread of the coronavirus, Carlson said. Furniture removed from the library has been placed in storage, to be brought back out when the pandemic passes. If things go smoothly through the end of September, the library may begin a gradual further expansion of services, Carlson said.

“We’re using every precaution we can to stay safe,” Carlson said. “As long as this goes well, I’m hoping we can expand a little more.”