Monona Public Library will reopen to the public on April 21 following a shut-down that lasted more than a year.
Due to the mounting public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the library closed to the public on March 15 of last year, only offering curbside pick-up and virtual programming ever since.
Library personnel initially planned to be closed for seven days, but after seven days turned into 13 months, Library Director Ryan Claringbole said he’s looking forward to finding a sense of normalcy at the library again.
“We’re viewing this as that first step of getting back to normal,” Claringbole said. “We’ve been waiting to do this for a very long time, and the staff are really excited… we also know that, just from the short amount of time that we’ve made the announcement, our patrons are really excited as well.”
While it is a first step in getting back to normal, Claringbole emphasized that it may be several months before things look as they did pre-pandemic.
When the library doors open on April 21, patrons can browse the stacks, pick up holds and check-out books, talk with library staff, and use the computers. However, several other library amenities will still remain unavailable.
“We’ve been trying to be clear about not only what patrons can do, but also what people can’t do,” he said. “There will be no study room use just yet, there will be no meeting room rentals just yet, and for the most part all of the library furniture is inaccessible. We’re not to point yet where people can stay and hang out, but that’s certainly the next phase that we’d like to do in the near future.”
Claringbole said the library’s decision to begin a phased reopening process was spurred by the number of COVID-19 cases throughout Dane County and an increase in accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Case numbers have increased since the decision was made to open back up, however, so Claringbole said it’s something he’s keeping an eye on.
“Something I want people to keep in mind is that this isn’t like we’re opening back up and it stays there written in stone. Our main goal is the safety of the patrons, the community, and the staff,” he said. “I think for the foreseeable future, if numbers ever go back to being dangerous, we may have to reverse and close up again, just depending on how things are.”
Once a downward trend in cases begins to form again, the library will continue to more advanced stages of reopening.
The second phase of reopening will bring library furniture, study rooms, and meeting rooms back into use. Claringbole said the third and final phase of reopening will be a transition back to in-person programming.
“While we’re excited about what we’re offering now, we do understand that this is just the beginning and we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves... because we want to make sure first and foremost that our patrons, as well as our staff, are safe,” said Claringbole.
For patrons not yet comfortable making a return to in-person book browsing, the library will continue to offer curbside pick-up.