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Santa Maria Public Library to reopen with modifications, pending city approval

Santa Maria Public Library to reopen with modifications, pending city approval

From the What you need to know for Wednesday, September 2 series

After closing to the public in March, the Santa Maria Public Library may finally be able to reopen for limited grab-and-go services, under a new Santa Barbara County health order released Monday. 

The order permits certain sectors including libraries, shopping malls, hair salons and barbershops to operate indoors with modifications and limited capacity, in alignment with state guidelines shared Aug. 31

The Santa Maria library began the reopening process by submitting plans to the City Manager's Office for review, outlining precautions for the main library location on McClelland Street, as well as the four branches in Cuyama, Los Alamos, Orcutt and Guadalupe, according to Santa Maria City Librarian Mary Housel.

Once the plans have been approved by the city, which Housel anticipates will take one to two weeks, the library will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity with several safeguards in place, including germ guards, strict sanitation and social distancing procedures, and a 20-minute time limit per visitor. 

"We’ve been working on these plans for many, many weeks," Housel said. "We have a full-on safety plan for each of our locations being reviewed by our city manager. The only thing remaining is to get germ guards and get those installed."

Since late June, the city's library system has been offering curbside pickup to continue providing resources to the community, but plans to discontinue the service once physical locations can reopen. 

At the main library branch, 25% capacity means that around 100 people would be permitted in the building at one time, Housel said. At smaller branches like Cuyama and Guadalupe, it will likely be under 10 people at a time. 

During their 20-minute period, visitors will be able to browse library materials and use library computers, with rangers present to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines and time limits. 

There will also be a self-checkout option near the door to limit contact with staff as much as possible, and furniture such as chairs will be removed or marked as off-limits, Housel said.

"Hopefully, our well-thought-out safety plan will keep everyone safe. I’m sure there will still be people who are hesitant to come in ... if those people can call and tell us what they need, we can organize a quick pickup," Housel said. "We’re trying to be sensitive and do the best we can."

Library programs for children and adults will continue virtually until further reopening is permitted. In the meantime, however, Housel said she will be happy to have the library partially reopened during the start of the school year. 

"Especially with the start of school, it will be nice for families to come in and get some books. We’re really glad to have that in place," she said.

City spokesman Mark van de Kamp confirmed that the plans are being reviewed by the City Manager's Office, with the newest guidelines from the county being taken into consideration. 

"These plans, submitted months ago, continue to evolve and react to successive health orders, including Monday’s guidance about capacity," van de Kamp said. "We are excited to be able to further reopen and provide this much-desired community service."

Along with submitting plans for indoor services, Housel said the safety plan for the library's Bookmobile also has been approved, with one person now permitted to enter the mobile library at a time. 

A schedule for the Bookmobile will be released in the next week, she said. 

"There’s a lot blossoming right now, I’m really excited and happy. It's the first step towards some kind of normal service," Housel said. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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