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Omaha Public Libraries begin phased opening

Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 21, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Like many other businesses, the public libraries across Omaha had to close abruptly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Laura Marlane, Executive Director of the Omaha Public Libraries, said they were focused on keeping their employees and patrons safe.

Many people were upset about the closing but understood the reasoning,

"The library is one of the main places I go and with it being closed, not good," January Danzy said. "I need my library."

While closed, many of the branches offered curbside pickup.

"Curbside was a huge undertaking with teams shelving materials, pulling holds, shelving holds, getting material ready for checkout, running them out to cars, and then emptying the book drops," Marlane said.

Six months after closing, the libraries are ready to start letting people back inside.

"Given the situation with the pandemic that just seemed the safest way for everybody in the city to deal with the situation at hand. Unfortunately that’s gone on until today, the 21st of September and it’s really nice to be open again," Marlane said.

Of the 12 branches, five are reopening Monday, September 21. Another three will open Monday, September 28. A date for remaining four has yet to be decided. The libraries are doing a phased reopening due to capacity limitations regarding phase four directed health measures and a lack of staffing.

Marlane said after March, they were unable to continue scheduling hours for part-time employees. Throughout the pandemic, some of those employees had to leave or find other jobs.

"So we’re looking at what we can open. What capacity we have to open other branches and we’re trying to focus on the larger branches because we’re still in phase four which means we can only had 75% capacity in our buildings," Marlane said.

Many people are happy to be back inside and using the libraries resources.

Curbside is still being offered for those who are yet to feel comfortable inside. Precautions are being taken, with masks and social distancing required. Materials are also being quarantined for a week after being returned. The library employees are happy to have people back inside.

"It’s been steady. We weren’t sure what to expect or how busy we would be, but it looks like it’s been steady use throughout the day and it’s just so nice to see our patrons back," Marlane said.