ELY – After more than a year of being closed to the public because of COVID-19, the Ely Public Library is set to reopen next month on a limited basis.Library Director Rachel Heinrich described …
ELY – After more than a year of being closed to the public because of COVID-19, the Ely Public Library is set to reopen next month on a limited basis.
Library Director Rachel Heinrich described the “express browsing model” to city council members last week, as the initial re-opening plan for the library that is set to be implemented on Saturday, May 24.
“This is the day when it will be two weeks after our staff will have received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine and we can re-open to the public,” she said.
The library closed in March 2020 due to public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Curbside pick-up has been in place during the interim, and the library’s expanded free Wi-Fi internet service has proved popular during the interim.
As approved by the library board, beginning late next month library patrons will have two-hour windows throughout the days of operation to enter the library and browse for materials, with no patron capacity limits.
“Between each two-hour block the library will be closed for 30 minutes to give staff time to clean,” Heinrich said.
The curbside pick-up program will end in June, and the library will return to the original “hold” system for materials.
While city council members were not required to give their approval for the re-opening procedures, they gave their support for the library board’s due diligence and attention to public health concerns.
During last week’s council meeting, Paul Kess asked what milestones will be needed to move past the limited re-opening.
“The (library) board did not set a date when the express browsing model will end,” Heinrich said. “We will see how it goes and the board will discuss it at their next meeting.”
Heidi Omerza said patrons can expect to see changes in the facility once the doors re-open. “It will look different. There are not going to be a lot of chairs around. We want patrons to be aware of that,” she said.
The council directed the Ely Police Department to enforce the library parking lot restrictions. The lot is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and no overnight parking.
By the numbers
The Ely Public Library experienced a substantial drop in usage last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and their annual report reflects the loss in access.
The population of the Ely library’s legal service area dropped from 3,410 in 2019 to 3,395 in 2020. Registered users at the local library decreased from 1,701 to 1,627.
Of course, the number of visits to the library took a huge hit despite the curbside pick-up services in place. In 2019, the Ely library registered 71,271 separate visits. That number plunged to 24,429 in 2020.
Programs, whether in-person or virtual, took an obvious hit. The Ely library had 158 programs in 2019 and just 33 programs in 2020. The total program attendance dropped from 3,241 in 2019 to just 389 in 2020.
Print material inventory (books/periodicals) increased from 35,474 in 2019 to 37,611 in 2020.
City Operating Revenue increased from $298,379 in 2019 to $354,800 in 2020. Operating expenditures included an increase in total personnel costs (salary and benefits) from $236,503 in 2019 to $271,154 in 2020.
Public Internet computer sessions also plunged from 29,276 in 2019 to 5,473 in 2020. However, wireless sessions were down slightly from 29,484 in 2019 to 24,392 in 2020. Library website visits increased from 12,681 in 2019 to 17,360 in 2020.
Total circulation, according to the annual report, was reported at 72,521 in 2019 and 41,979 in 2020. Children’s circulation was reported at 16,370 in 2019 and 8,813 in 2020. Adult circulation was 26,144 in 2019 and 14,683 in 2020. Total downloadable circulation increased from 8,290 in 2019 to 10,904 in 2020.