Building Opening Notice for February 5, 2021
A Message from Library Director Honore Bray & Board of Trustees Chair Audra Loyal
With COVID-19 vaccines becoming available in Missoula County, we are beginning to see some light at the end what has been a long and difficult tunnel. In the next few weeks, Missoula Public Library will wrap up its last handful of lingering but minor interior construction projects. The building will soon be certified for the normal public use it was designed to accommodate. However, these are not normal times.
Your Library, with its capacity to be so many things to so many people, is a unique institution. Our current challenge is also unique. The task of constructing and opening a new building, designed for widespread public use, in the middle of a global pandemic, has been the biggest and most complex challenge MPL has ever faced.
Missoula County officials currently recommend that MPL refrain from opening the new building to the public until a level of community-wide vaccination and immunity has been achieved. This benchmark has not yet been determined, but MPL continues to work closely with the County to prepare the safest path forward and to establish policies that protect the health of the public and our staff.
Because we expect to open while COVID-19 transmission remains a public health concern, access to the building and its services will be provided in phases. The following restrictions are expected to be in place during the initial phase:
- CDC-recommended protocols for social distancing, personal hygiene, and proper use of facemasks will continue to be followed.
- To ensure social distancing, Library spaces will have lower maximum occupancy caps than they were designed for and markers for traffic flow.
- Visitors will register upon entering and again before leaving, providing contact tracing data in the case of a potential outbreak.
- In-person services will be task-based and focus primarily on finding and checking out materials; visits will be limited to a one hour or less.
- Special hours will be designated for high-risk populations.
- The building will be regularly disinfected after hours of public use.
- Use of the Library’s meeting rooms and program areas will be prohibited.
- MPL will continue to provide curbside lending, virtual reference assistance, internet and laptop check-out, activity kits for kids, and online programming.
Once a benchmark has been determined for our initial opening phase, we will announce it so that patrons can follow the community’s progress and understand the link between public health contingencies and Library access and services. As the threat of COVID transmission recedes, MPL leadership, in consultation with County officials, look forward to relaxing restrictions.
We can’t wait for the day when we can once again serve Missoula as a community center, lifelong learning hub, and destination for civic engagement. But to be realistic, that day will likely not arrive for several months. We are grateful to Missoulians for their inordinate patience as difficult choices are made and ever-changing contingencies are weighed. Let’s hope 2021 is the year we reach the end of this tunnel!