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Library welcomes limited patrons, hours as Nederland launches phased reopening

NEDERLAND — After months of closed doors, the Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library is open to the public but with limitations.

The library, located at 2712 Nederland Avenue, is open on a preliminary schedule from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Curbside service will continue from 10 a.m. to noon on the days they are normally open for those who are a little more conservative about where they go and time spent there, library director Victoria Klehn said.

Not long after the doors opened on Friday, Mary Speight and Brittani Maier were busy getting books.

“I’ve missed the library and the ladies and gentleman that work here,” Speight said. “They always steer me in the right direction.”

Maier was at the library picking up some Christine Feehan novels, one of her favorites, she said.

Brittani Maier checks out books at the Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library. (Mary Meaux/The News)

And while both women took advantage of the curbside service that was and still is offered, it just isn’t the same as the one-on-one interaction, they agreed.

With the library open there will be a limit to the number of patrons allowed inside at one time — 10.

“We will not have any computers available so no internet access or access to email,” Klehn said. “The meeting room and study room will not be available at this initial period. You can come in, look for books you want to check out, check out and leave.”

There will be no special programs at this time though events such as Story Time will continue on Facebook Live as well as “Getting Crafty,” a teen program.

“All of the chairs (inside) have been removed and all of the computers shut down,” Klehn said. “We are basically trying to limit touch and get a feel for how many patrons we can handle at one time. Keeping the safety and security of our patrons in mind while coping with COVID-19.”

Klehn said staff will keep a eye on how many visitors they receive and if there ends up being a long line outside, then time spent inside may be limited.

“The city’s main goal at this phase is to reopen as safely as possible and make sure our patrons are not impacted as much as we start to resume some business as normal,” she said.

The Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library in Nederland has officially reopened to limited patrons from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Masks are required in the building per the governor’s orders.

The library is normally a busy spot. Back in January and February the library saw approximately 4,000 visitors.

Klehn said staff will be tweaking the plan and possibly more procedures as the weeks progress.

Mayor Don Albanese said this is the first step before running wide open — referring to the library and parks.

Fencing around playground equipment will be taken down and signs erected with guidance on social distancing and mask use.

“It looks like we have broken the curve and are going downhill (in COVID cases),” Albanese said. “We usually average 1½ to 2 cases per day, and even that is starting to subside just a little bit.”

The decision to phase the reopening of the library and playground equipment was made by taking into account the public’s opinion and talking with people.

“People have taken it on their own to abide by all of the CDC rules,” Albanese said.

City Manger Chris Duque said council has discussed the reopening at each meeting since around July, keeping an eye on the number of active cases.

“They (council) asked us to come up with a plan to go forward, a conservative approach, not to go from zero to 60 and put your foot on the gas and go,” Duque said.

Council and staff recognize there must be phases in the reopening approach, and if numbers start to creep up again they could decide to make a change, or not.

“We all want to get there (fully reopened) but get there safely,” Duque said. “That’s why council will take steps, phases, looking out for the public’s health and safety.”

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