REOPENING: What Seattle Public Library says about governor’s rule change

(WSB photo: Social-distancing markings for outdoor services at High Point Library)

As we reported Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Inslee has announced new guidelines for a variety of businesses and institutions – among them, libraries. We asked Seattle Public Library management whether that means they’ll be opening their buildings soon. Today, SPL communications director Andra Addison sent this update:

Gov. Jay Inslee has announced public libraries may allow some indoor service at 25 percent capacity in Phase 2 of his Safe Start reopening plan. Indoor activities were previously slated in Phase 3. The Seattle Public Library currently operates in Phase 2 and is assessing the new reopening requirements with current planning efforts to expand services.

The safety of our patrons and staff is our top priority as we develop and progress carefully and thoughtfully on our reopening plans. It will likely take a few weeks to develop a plan to determine services that can safely adapt to in-building access. All physical distancing and health protocols will remain in place, and as required in the new guidance, cloth masks will be required to access any in-building services. Curbside Pickup Service and online services, classes, programs and activities will continue through all phases. More details will be announced when plans are finalized.

31 Replies to "REOPENING: What Seattle Public Library says about governor's rule change"

  • Disappointed October 7, 2020 (8:56 pm)

    It may take several weeks for the library to develop a plan??!!?  Why so long?  The library had to have known this was coming eventually.  They have had since March to think about a plan and have it ready to implement.  The necessary health protocols are not new!  Other libraries around the country have opened, and can serve as a model of how to implement the proper precautions.  I am so disappointed at further delay.  Where was the planning during the past six months?

    • disappointed as well October 7, 2020 (10:45 pm)

      My sentiments exactly.

    • 2020 October 8, 2020 (6:01 am)

      You’re wrong, the guidelines are new.

      ‘Gov. Inslee has announced new guidelines for a variety of businesses and institutions – among them, libraries.’

      The governor has been rolling out guidelines specific to industries, for the past 5 months. Industries and business essentially have to wait for this as a starting point and review and then implement a plan for reopening.

      You also don’t seem to be considering the complexity of these times, and how the pandemic has possibly impacted all of the people behind the library system. 

      We don’t know how it has impacted their workforce, and they will need some time to get everything up and operational again, including likely new training protocols, and retrofitting the libraries with signage, plexiglass, sanitizer, etc, or whatever they have to do.

      Then you also have to think about the support industries that supply things like signs, plexiglass, and sanitizer, and how they are currently impacted…

      200,000~ people have died from this virus in our country. I think we can wait a few weeks while a business makes sure they reopen as safely as possible.

      2020… the year of so much entitled complaining.

      • JTM October 8, 2020 (9:15 am)

        It’s not entitled complaining – it’s expecting public servants to do their jobs and be as nimble as the rest of the us. Libraries (and schools, and parks, etc, etc.) should have spent the past six month planning out for various contingencies, for different scenarios.We seem to have made the decision in this difficult screwed up year that if you’re a private business who can charge money (restaurants, bars, coffee shops, movie theatres, sporting events, private schools, etc) it’s important to be open, but if it’s a public service (parks, libraries, schools, pools) then it’s ok to stay closed.

      • seaweed October 8, 2020 (10:14 am)

        All of our public facilities are going down the toilet, while somehow the employees of such facilities continue to be collecting wages. The public restroom facilities in the Parks are a complete disgrace. I cannot imagine how they can pass any health standards inspection. It is like a third world experience. Standing water, mud, filthy clothing on the floors, garbage is being strewn about outside, increasing tags only morons and the mentally deranged could produce; and no effort at all put forth to clean or maintain. What’s up City? Guessing we are going to be told that  more taxes are required.

        • WSB October 8, 2020 (11:15 am)

          Have you already reported to Parks maintenance?

      • Susan October 8, 2020 (4:26 pm)

        As a retired library worker, I agree with the cautious approach!

  • LivesInWS October 7, 2020 (9:19 pm)

    Says “cloth masks” will be required. Wondering why non-cloth masks such as surgical or N95 masks can’t be worn if we have them.

    • West Seattlite October 7, 2020 (10:53 pm)

      I’m guessing they mean cloth masks at a minimum. If you have something better like an N95, that’s probably fine.

      • alki_2008 October 8, 2020 (2:23 pm)

        PSA:  Please don’t wear an N95 respirator (the ones with valves on them) without covering the valve.  The masks with valves, such as those that used to be easily obtainable at hardware stores, allow exhalations to pass through the valve.

  • Andrew Derby October 7, 2020 (10:05 pm)

    I’m certain that “cloth” is another word for “fabric” and that surgical and N95 will be quite acceptable.

  • JTM October 8, 2020 (8:39 am)

    A few weeks? Haven’t they had months to plan a re-opening? It’s incredibly frustrating that bars, restaurants, etc. are able to open up seemingly overnight, but libraries, schools, parks aren’t nimble enough (or lack the planning beforehand) to do the same. 

    • alki_2008 October 8, 2020 (2:27 pm)

      Might be more about money than nimble-ness.  Bars/restaurants have to foot their own bill for protective equipment, such as sanitizer, disinfectants, physical barriers, etc.Libraries/schools/parks use government money. If it wasn’t budgeted for before the year, which probably wasn’t since it wasn’t known about, then I’m sure there is a lot of bureaucratic paperwork about where to source the funds and where to purchase the equipment.

  • Goddess Andraste October 8, 2020 (9:38 am)

    It feels like KCLS has been proactive dealing with things, and SPL has been reactive. KCLS seems to be weeks ahead of SPL when making any changes. I realize there’s a large size/resource difference between a county library system and a city, but during all this, as there have been changes to COVID opening rules, KCLS has been, okay, here’s what we’re going to do, and here are the dates. SPL’s response has been to “assess”. For weeks. With no info. I’m a huge fan of our libraries, both of them. I just wish SPL would, well, plan better.

    • Kyle October 8, 2020 (8:15 pm)

      Agree with this. Yes it is hard for all to plan. Its just frustrating to watch some agencies do a much better job at serving the public than others. Wish SPL was more on the ball!

  • Terri October 8, 2020 (10:06 am)

    What bothers me about this statement is the total lack of enthusiasm. Nothing to indicate that they are at all relieved, happy or eager to be able to resume in-person service.

    • alki_2008 October 8, 2020 (2:30 pm)

      Would you be enthused to be indoors and have customers coming in, and you have to enforce masking rules that some people object to.  And for most locations, they have a regular stream of homeless people that come in to use the bathroom or to stay out of inclement weather.  Yeah, I’d be really enthusiastic to get back to that during a pandemic. <s>

      What reason is there to have libraries have in-person services anyway? Patrons can search for materials online and reserve them to pick-up at some of the locations. Do you need to hang out in the library?

    • Kim October 8, 2020 (2:47 pm)

      Terri,    They probably not excited to be back working with public knowing that that their life is at risk.  It must be extremely stressful for any one working with random people who they don’t know all day long. 

    • R j October 9, 2020 (10:04 pm)

      Are you excited to open your doors to folx who won’t wear masks, impinge on personal space, and refuse to leave when required, so that an area can be cleaned and made ready for the next group? It’s not about excitement, any more than restaurants, USPS, and schools are eager to meet the public. We all want to be safe while doing our jobs, which we sorely miss. 

  • Coach October 8, 2020 (11:01 am)

    Was “nimble” the word of the day on a calendar or something?Inviting the general public (which is bound to have at least a few people who still believe covid is a hoax and acts accordingly with their own safety with regard to it and therefore the safety of others around them) into your workspace during a pandemic, the spread of which is still not fully grasped, seems daunting enough. Then you think people who trained in library sciences or child education should also be able to just “be nimble enough” to have a thorough plan to protect themselves and the broader community at a moment’s notice? Because you want things? I’m thankful for whatever level of service they can provide, on whatever timeline they can provide. If we remote school until there is a proven and established cure and/or immunization, then that’s what it is. We are not dealing with a nasty stretch of weather or even an unusual amount of wildfire smoke. It’s a bleeding pandemic!  The sooner everyone gets on board with the idea that it’s going to take more effort and more compliance, the quicker we can get back to some semblance of normal. 

    • Deneva Flath October 8, 2020 (2:49 pm)

      Yes, I do believe that they should be nimble.

    • JTM October 8, 2020 (3:33 pm)

      Coach – I believe that the state, city, and counties departments of health could have and should have been working with agencies and stakeholders in our libraries, schools, parks, etc to have plans in place to be able to open up safely and quickly when it’s appropriate. I’m not asking the head librarian to be an epidemiologist – but I’m frustrated that in six months a plan wasn’t made that said “When it’s safe to have X% of people back in our buildings, here’s how that’s going to work safely.” In reading the comments from the SPL librarians, it seems those plans have not yet been made. If expecting my state and local government to be efficient is ‘entitled,’ then I guess I’m entitled. 

  • MS October 8, 2020 (11:32 am)


  • D. E. October 8, 2020 (1:35 pm)

    I usually don’t reply like this, and I realize this probably
    won’t change anyone’s mind. I am just one of the many 100s workers with Seattle
    Parks and Rec. This culminative idea that we the “Public servants” have been sitting
    on our butts, collecting a paycheck and NOT giving back to our communities is not
    only painful, but also incorrect.

    The city ran 4 emergency homeless shelters for 24 hours a
    day every day, for nearly 6 months.  (Bitter Lake, Garfield, Miller and Southwest
    Teen Center) The amount of planning and logistics it took for the cots, the
    blankets, the food, the supplies, support, janitorial, and everything else that
    went to a safe space was a huge concerted effort of nonstop manpower. Also, no
    one has mentioned the lunch programs for families in need, the shower sites, or
    the huge amount of work and restoration to Cal Anderson, and other parks
    damaged during our days of unrest. On top of that, our team tried to stay on
    top of basic day to day operations during riot and protest conditions.

    Even here and now, we are assisting in many emergency
    childcare sites, teen hubs, virtual outreach programming for our most isolated
    members of the community, and other educational outreach programs like Rec in
    the Streets and we are still offering what support we can as schools balance their
    safety/reopening plans.

    Yes, there are many frustrating situations happening now.
    Yes, our pre-Covid operations are not as easy to obtain as they were back in
    February. As a simple community member, I too understand many of these frustrations.
    I am grateful for my fellow community neighbors who realize that our rules and
    mandates change every week. We still work with the eager anticipation towards
    the opening our pools, our Camp Longs, our Boating and Rowing clubs and our Community
    Centers. But we have to do that within the parameters given, working within a
    shrinking budget, with the reallocation of resource and staffing, and the many
    updates and expectations given by our Mayor and our Governor.






    • WSB October 8, 2020 (1:40 pm)

      Thank you, D.E.

    • 2020 October 8, 2020 (2:11 pm)

      Thanks for all you and your department do, and for speaking up here.

      Many of us wouldn’t think of or use the term ‘public servant,’ fyi.

      Also, responding to an earlier comment, for someone to say something isn’t entitlement, and then turn around and say ‘it’s expecting public servants,’ …well people can decide for themselves.

      • JTM October 8, 2020 (3:40 pm)

        D.E. – thanks for all the hard work from you and your coworkers.2020 – if expecting elected officials and people in positions of power in our government to do their jobs efficiently to be able to move us forward safely and timely is ‘entitled,’ then I’ll wear that label without complaints. 

    • newnative October 8, 2020 (2:22 pm)

      I’m sorry comments here have put you on the defensive. I’m flabbergasted that people can be so flip about how hard it is to maintain public services during this time. While I miss accessing the public library, I’m also grateful that they aren’t currently another point of virus spread and that their employees aren’t needlessly at risk. 

    • alki_2008 October 8, 2020 (2:34 pm)

      Thank you for your work.And just a note, you forgot to mention the City Council in your last sentence. They have a large effect on things, especially the budget.

  • Laura Staley October 8, 2020 (4:39 pm)

    They will have been making plans. I work at a non-SPL library and we were making reopening plans as we closed. They will have planned for where to put up the barriers that keep people safe, but they probably won’t have bought or installed them yet. (You don’t spend that kind of money if you don’t absolutely know you’ll need it.)They will have to get the necessary PPE to the branches. If they haven’t bought it already they will have to find and purchase it first.They will have to train staff on safety and cleaning procedures, not just for the circulation and reference desks, but for all the computer equipment and tables. If the staff has been on furlough, they couldn’t even answer emails, let alone take training.They will have to find out which staff are available.  It’s likely that some high-risk staff will retire or take leave at this point. If this creates a gap in one of the branches, staff shuffling takes time. They will have to do some re configuring to set up quarantine shelves to deal with the avalanche of materials that will be returned. And they’re going to need a lot of them. The best way of making sure materials are virus-free is time – four days seems to be reasonably safe.And finally they know there’s a good chance there will be a second wave. And they don’t want to spend a lot of money now (and expose their staff), when they are sure that in a month or two virus cases will be skyrocketing, and they are going to have to close everything down again. Please have patience. They are working in the same conditions of inadequate information and limited resources that the rest of us are.

  • Jonathan October 10, 2020 (11:43 am)

    As a non-SPL librarian, libraries have been planning to open since the start, but have a look at the actual regulations, .   They are exceptionally specific and require revising any plans that we have made.  In addition, we are still learning about the disease and how it lives on books that circulate.  If we don’t want people to get sick from checking out a book or DVD, we need to have procedures that reflect the latest science, which is still changing.Finally, there is extensive staff training required that balances the safety of patrons and the staff.  If workers are immunocompromised or live with those who are, how do we take that into account while still protecting patrons who might not want to follow the existing masking and social distancing rules?  Are staff expected to police the spaces or to let things happen that are deemed unsafe.  There are legal liabilities as well, so I would expect this intersection of keeping staff safe, keeping patrons safe, and providing services that minimize contact are all being evaluated and balanced, not to mention enhanced bathroom, desk, chair, and book cleaning without additional funding and likely with fewer staff than before.

Sorry, comment time is over.