Libraries Strive to Stay Community Living Rooms as They Reopen – The New York Times

Posted: June 16, 2020 at 7:49 am


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In pockets of Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio, there are books sitting in quarantine.

They are public library books that have been returned, and then spend at least three days sitting on tables or in big metal carts, carefully labeled with the dates they came in. After that, they can they go back on the shelves.

Libraries around the country are tiptoeing toward reopening, but theyre not just trying to figure out how to safely lend out books. These are community hubs where parents bring their toddlers for story time, where people come to use the computer, where book groups meet. Now all of that has to be rethought.

Its awful because its the opposite of what we normally try to do, said Karen Kleckner Keefe, the executive director of the Hinsdale Public Library just outside of Chicago. We want to be the community living room, we want everyone to stay and get comfortable. And to design service to prevent lingering and talking is so different from everything weve been working toward.

With their doors closed, libraries moved whatever they could online. Book clubs were held on Zoom. The Queens Public Library in New York changed a job-search training session to focus on online networking. Author events became virtual, too, which, while lacking an in-person touch, sometimes meant they could include special guests Jean Becker, who edited a book about Barbara Bush, brought the former first ladys son Neil Bush to a talk she gave for the Kansas City Public Library in April.

Branches around the country have also been offering curbside pickup, where books are left by the front door or dropped in the trunks of waiting cars, along with library catalogs and leaflets about their cleaning protocols. And even when the lights were off, many libraries kept their Wi-Fi humming so people park themselves outside and use it for free.

Were getting 500 visits a day, said Anthony W. Marx, the president of the New York Public Library, which operates branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. That means people are going out in a dangerous pandemic to sit in front of our libraries.

The New York Public Library said it was hoping to start the process of opening in July with eight branches that will provide grab-and-go pickup service for books.

Joel Jones, deputy director of library services at the Kansas City Public Library, said he was especially concerned with getting vulnerable populations in the door first. He said his system expects to welcome their first visitors this month through referrals from organizations that work with people with mental illness or those experiencing poverty or homelessness.

Theyre also thinking hard about what to do with their furniture, he said. Theyre going to try setting up computers that have two monitors six feet apart, one for a library staff member and another for patrons who needs help printing or navigating the internet. The Kansas City North-East Branch was in the middle of a $4.5 million renovation when the country shut down. On a video conference call a few days later with their architects, Mr. Jones said, the library leadership looked at plans for the furniture and shelving and realized they needed to be redrawn.

Ive been looking at these plans for months, Mr. Jones said. But I looked at it that time and said, This is not going to work.

One thing many librarians have noticed is changes in the reading patterns of their customers. Libby, an e-book lending app for libraries, saw a 51 percent increase in the checkout of e-books after shutdown orders were issued in mid-March. Ramiro Salazar, the president of the Public Library Association and the director of the San Antonio Public Library system, said that before the pandemic, the demand in his system was about 5 to 1 in favor of paper books, but he doesnt expect that to come back.

Updated June 12, 2020

So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was very rare, but she later walked back that statement.

Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus whether its surface transmission or close human contact is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nations job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid, says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. When you havent been exercising, you lose muscle mass. Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you arent being told to stay at home, its still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people dont need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks dont replace hand washing and social distancing.

If youve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Users are being forced to turn to e-books, he said. What we dont know is how many converts well have.

Even in places where libraries have reopened, things look different. Cari Dubiel, a librarian in Twinsburg, Ohio, said that her branch has been open to the public since May 20. But so far, the largest number of simultaneous visitors in the 45,000 square foot building has been roughly 30, she said. Under normal circumstances, their biggest clientele are parents and senior citizens. But young children are not allowed in the library at the moment, and many seniors are staying away. Teenagers were just allowed back in this month.

Her library is, however, allowing access to computers, she said, through hourlong reservation slots where she tries to help people from six feet away and behind a sneeze guard. They have a spray disinfectant for the countertops and wipes for the computers that are used after each visitor, in addition to cleaning surfaces like door and toilet handles every two hours.

We have an opioid support group and a writers group and eight different book groups. Its a very popular meeting place for the community, Ms. Dubiel said. But right now we need to focus on being a utility.

That is the last thing that will likely come back to libraries their function as a gathering place. But some branches are doing what they can to keep that connection alive. Mr. Jones in Kansas City said his librarians have been calling users who are 65 and older, just to say hello.

We call them and see how theyre doing, he said. Thats what you do in a library. A lot of people come in regularly because they just want to talk.

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Libraries Strive to Stay Community Living Rooms as They Reopen - The New York Times

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June 16th, 2020 at 7:49 am

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