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Program librarian Marissa Oteiza displays some of the cleaning products – along with facemasks – that will be used at NWT Centennial Library, which opened to the public in a limited capacity on Aug. 10.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

NWT Centennial Library reopened to the public on Aug. 10.

However, the library services are not the same as when it closed in mid-March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A very limited area of the library is open to the public, according to head librarian Christine Gyapay.

“Unfortunately, this is just our reality now,” said Gyapay. “To have such limited services in a public library, it is a loss.”

Access is by appointment only.

Basically, members of the public can go to the reception desk and can access the library computers.

That means no one is able to sit at the reading tables inside the library, or browse the bookshelves.

“Library staff will go and get whatever materials are asked for or needed,” said Gyapay. “So that will be a huge change.”

Only three members of the public are allowed in the library at a time, and must maintain physical distancing. No one under 16 years of age is permitted inside.

Only two people are allowed access to the computers at a time for half-hour sessions and access is by appointment. Computer users must wear a facemask or face covering.

“We have to limit who is here and how they’re moving about the space,” said Gyapay.

A staff member at the door screens those entering with questions, such as if they have recently travelled outside the NWT. However, a person’s temperature will not be taken.

And the library hours are significantly reduced.

It will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will be closed on Sundays.

“When we open, we’ll be very patron focused, and the other hours will give us time to do our office work, our collection maintenance and to be able to clean,” said Gyapay.

While the library was closed, it offered book delivery to homes. Now, people can sign out materials by request for curbside pick up.

Gyapay explained that, now that the library is open, staff members have other duties and can’t deliver books.

While the library was closed, it also offered online programming.

“It will be continuing into September,” said Marissa Oteiza, the program librarian. “So we’ll still be doing our online story times when the weather is not good to do them on the lawn. We’ll continue our bakeoffs for the rest of August.”

Every week, Oteiza will continue to post a craft, a wellness activity and a new skill activity.

“So we’ll just keep that going until I’m able to do in-person programming,” she said.

Plans are being made for story times on the lawn on Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, weather permitting and with physical distancing.

There will be no afterschool programming or evening events for the public.

Oteiza is happy the library is reopened.

“We definitely miss seeing our patrons’ faces,” she said. “We were closed for so long that you get kind of comfortable working from home, but we’re definitely happy to have the doors open again.”

A special event – called the Great Book Checkout – is being planned for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 21 & 22 to reintroduce people to the library.

“What we’re going to do is to sort of launch our opening we’re going to take the books out to the lawn,” said Gyapay.

New books added to the collection will be displayed on tables and people can ask for whatever interests them.

“We can’t have people come in and browse, so we’re going to take the new books that people can sign out with their library cards,” said Gyapay, noting a staff member will handle the books and put them in bags.

The changes at NWT Centennial Library were made after research into what other national and international libraries, and those in the NWT, were doing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gyapay noted that the changes at the library have been approved by the GNWT and the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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