Juneau public libraries to reopen but with different hours and new safety precautions

The new Mendenhall Valley Public Library. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
Book shelves at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. When the library reopens next week, patrons will be required to stay 6 feet apart and encouraged to wear masks. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

The Juneau Public Libraries will reopen next week with precautions in place to protect staff and patrons from COVID-19.  

Starting next Thursday, the Valley Library will open during its normal hours. The downtown and Douglas libraries will open starting next Sunday, May 31. 

Library Director Robert Barr said staff will wear masks and sanitize surfaces regularly. They’ve also rearranged furniture and have plastic shields at the check-out counters. 

“We’re basically doing the same thing that you see that you see at the grocery stores,” Barr said. 

Juneau’s public libraries closed in March when the state began hunkering down in response to COVID-19. Under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reopening plan, public libraries could have reopened earlier this month.

But Barr said it took some time for staff to figure out a plan to reopen safely. Part of that involves closing each building for 72 hours per week to allow for “viral deactivation.” 

That’s why they’ve staggered when libraries are open. For now, the Valley library will open Wednesday through Saturday, and the Douglas and downtown libraries Sunday through Wednesday.

“We did it that way so that one of our larger libraries downtown or the valley would always be open seven days a week,” Barr said. 

Even while closed, staff at Juneau’s libraries stayed busy delivering books by mail. Barr said some staff were reassigned to the city’s Emergency Operations Center to help with pandemic response, and a few will continue splitting their time that way. 

Library patrons will have to maintain social distance inside the buildings and are also encouraged to wear masks, except for children under two. In-person programming like storytime is suspended for now. 

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