Washington County libraries shut down until further notice due to increased risk of COVID-19

A sign on the Hurricane branch library announcing the closure of the Washington County Library System in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane, Utah, March 26, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Library System has closed its doors in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and help keep employees and the community protected.

County Library System Director Joel Tucker told St. George News that the decision was made Thursday morning following a report Wednesday of the first cases of community spread of COVID-19 in Washington County.

“The (Washington County) commissioners have been in close contact with the health department, and they’ve been monitoring the situation closely,” Tucker said.

Previous to this, library operations in the county have been limited, such as not allowing access to the computers or meeting rooms and encouraging people to come in and get items and take them home for social separation, activities which Tucker called “in and out kind of visits.”

He said the commissioners called Tucker on Thursday morning and said it was time to take the next step.

“For now, we don’t have a projected time of when it will reopen.”

“The library serves … as a heart of the community,” he continued. “We all pay for it through our taxes, and it makes it so that anybody can come in and take advantage of the resources. Come in and read a book, come in and read a newspaper. … I feel a little bit like, if it’s the heart of the community, we’re in the hospital working on trying to save the heart.”

Shutting down the library now is a way to protect the employees and the community from spreading the new coronavirus.

“As they try to contain the spread of the COVID-19, sharing isn’t really the best model right now,” he said.

People may still access all electronic resources through the RBdigital and Overdrive, which includes books, magazine, video and audiobooks. No library fines will accrue during this temporary closure.

Library staff will still be working and focusing on cleaning the inventory, of which there are some 500,000 items available for checkout, he said.

“To be able to put our hands on each item is going to take some time,” Tucker said, “so we have some work to do.”

The Cedar City Library in the Park made the decision March 17 to shutdown due to COVID-19, library Director Steve Decker told St. George News.

“We originally anticipated a week or 10 days closed,” Decker said. “While we are closed, we are doing some deep cleanings and some repainting, so our employees are keeping their hours.”

Decker said they decided that if they were going to close, this would be a good time so that if they needed to do a cleaning closure “it would effect the least amount of people,” adding that when they made the decision the numbers of people using the library were “pretty light.”

If people do not have a library card and would like to access the digital resources, Decker said the library is issuing temporary cards over the phone for a few weeks or longer.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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