From Book Riot:
Despite a COVID-19 positivity rate of over 15% and a stay-at-home order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot encouraging residents to “only leave home to go to work or school, or
for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries,” Chicago Public Libraries are still open for in-person browsing, reference, computer use, and more. Major library systems in other US cities including New York Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate of about 2%), Los Angeles Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate around 5%), and Houston Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate around 8%) have closed to in-person services, instead remaining available for digital access as well as grab-and-go services.
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Mixed and unclear messages abound as to why the system continues to keep its doors open to public use, and employees across CPL are frustrated and scared for their safety and well-being. An anticipated update about in-person services to come Monday, November 30, is expected to not close the libraries but instead, reduce hours of service by one hour — that is, they’ll either close an hour early or open an hour later. Such changes don’t get to the heart of the problem but, perhaps, exacerbate them: with one less hour for use, it seems as though the opportunity for more people to be fed into a space for shorter time periods will only encourage shorter periods of time for cleaning and other COVID protocol.
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Adding to the ever-decreasing morale among employees are the continued understaffing issues, including the reduction of hours for custodians. When libraries reopened in June, custodial staff were back to working eight hours a day, but they’re now back to part-time hours, putting the onus on other staff to not only do their jobs but also clean, sanitize, and otherwise implement the hygienic recommendations necessitated by the pandemic.
“Employees wear a lot of hats — helping out with shelving, dealing with issues and incidents, working to staff both reference desks and programs. Our programming is still valuable but you can’t host a book club or story time or do a virtual classroom visit and be on the reference desk at the same time,” said one CPL employee. “Add on enforcing mask wearing, trying to clean as much as you can […] and trying not to stress out over the fear that you’re sick or making others sick and it’s pretty tough.”
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Employees cited the hygiene theater they’re performing among the reasons they’re exhausted and lacking morale, and more, they wonder why it is that Lightfoot continues to shame city residents about gathering together for the holidays while not expecting the same of people in libraries. Other businesses have closed their doors and been forced to return to curbside and other no-contact methods of proceeding, but libraries have not. For many, this illogical meting of cans and cannots further confuses them and creates confusion for the general population.
“I think the public has a false sense of security about precautions and safety. If we are open it must be safe,” said one librarian.
Link to the rest at Book Riot