Library may soon reopen

Plan going to board as early as next month; council supportive

by Tom Coombe
After being shuttered for more than a year, Ely’s public library could soon reopen to the public.
Council members indicated Tuesday that they would lift an emergency order that closed the building, amid suggestions that the facility could welcome patrons within several weeks.
But details, including a date for reopening and procedures and protocols, figure to be worked out by the city’s library board.
“We’re getting ready to get ready to get ready,” said council member Heidi Omerza, also a longtime library board member. “We’re going to do it slowly and smartly.”
Since mid-March of 2020, the library was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The library has offered curbside service for much of the time period and has maintained a strong social media presence, but visitors have not been allowed inside to peruse books, read newspapers, attend programming or use the facility’s computers.
With pandemic restrictions easing across the state and gathering limits also loosened, the library board addressed the topic of reopening earlier this month.
Minutes show that the board has also received public inquiries about reopening, but librarian Rachel Heinrich said “there was not consensus among the library board on the exact route to take,” and that the issue dominated the discussion.
Heinrich said the board agreed the council first needed to take the step of lifting the emergency order that closed the facility.
“We’ll take care of that,” said mayor Chuck Novak, who added the order could be lifted when the council convenes again in early-April.
Novak added that he’d like to show deference to Heinrich and the library board to come up with a formal plan.
“As we did with parks and rec and rentals, we have COVID rules in place, and would leave it up to the library board and Rachel and her staff,” said Novak. “What are you comfortable with? We don’t want to be putting a bigger burden on Rachel and her staff.”
Novak said he was confident the board would “apply conditions coming from the feds and the state relative to social distancing and other issues.”
A potential timeline includes the council lifting the order April 7, with the library board slated to meet the following day.
Council member Paul Kess said “I think the public is anxious to know is it a month or two months or three months,” and pressed for “some clarity here.”
Kess said the discussion led him to believe “I’m anticipating some broad sense of a May 1 opening sort of thing.”
Heinrich said that staff will present options to the board for the next meeting and said reopening could hinge “on what the COVID situation is in town.”