No firm date has been set for reopening the Grand Forks Public Library, but plans are in place to offer drive-up, curbside pick-up services, as a first step.

Wendy Wendt, the library's director, presented the draft of the reopening plan at the Library Board’s May meeting that “has the safety of staff and patrons at its core,” she said.

“Board members thought it was good,” said Wendt, who reviewed the plan with Kari Goelz, director of Grand Forks County Emergency Management office, “to see if we overlooked any risks."

The first phase of the plan would allow patrons to request and check out materials online or by phone. When patrons arrive at the library parking lot, they call a staff member who will deliver the item or items to a table for pick up.

All drop-off boxes also would be opened in this phase, Wendt said. The boxes are located near the library’s front entrance, the Altru YMCA, Choice Health and Fitness, and Thompson, N.D., public school.

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“It is my hope and my expectation” that the board will approve the reopening plan at its June 17 meeting and decide when curbside service can begin, Wendt said.

“We want to ensure that construction can be completed and all furniture is in place before making a decision," said Justin Berry, Library Board president.

“We are ready to start,” Wendt said. “We have PPE (personal protective equipment) and we do have a plan in place and processes.”

The library has been closed since March 17 in response to the public health emergency caused by the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, staff members have been working from home, focused on reaching and interacting with patrons electronically.

A decision regarding opening the building, which receives from 700 to 800 daily visitors, will be made by the Library Board sometime in the future, Wendt said.

Wendt’s phased reopening plan “is intended to be a living document, allowing for revisions to be made as our knowledge and community needs change,” she said. “We can go forward and back, depending on what happens with COVID-19.”

Procedures have been developed with specifics regarding curbside pick-up, computer use, sanitizing schedule and other COVID-related concerns, she said.

The plan calls for six Plexiglass sneeze guards to be placed at customer service desks -- four in the adult section and two in the children’s section. Masks, gloves, disinfectants and hand sanitizer will be available for staff and patrons.

Since mid-March, all drop-off boxes have been closed and all fines have been waived until the pandemic is over.

It seems that many area residents are anxious for the day when they can walk, once again, through those sliding glass, double doors.

“Every day, there are people at the door, asking, ‘When will the library be open?’ ” said Wayne Springer, head of facilities at the library. “A lot of people miss the library. A lot of people come in.”

Upgrading facility

For several years, maintenance projects at the library were delayed, as the possibility of constructing a new library building was debated.

After referendums, in which voters rejected the idea of funding a new building, the Library Board decided to focus on upgrades and improvements within the facility, Berry said.

This spring, construction is “wrapping up,” he said. Projects that were under way before the onset of the pandemic have continued -- some at a more rapid pace -- after the library’s doors closed to the public.

In the past three years, the library’s extensive remodeling and renovation has cost about $1 million, Berry said.

“Wendy (Wendt) has been able to save some money and work (these projects) into the budget," he said.

Numerous improvements have been made, including installing a new roof, carpeting and electrical data lines, he said.

New burners for the boilers and air-conditioning equipment were installed. The air-conditioning unit and boilers were original to the 48-year-old building, according to Springer, who said, on the building’s roof, a rubber membrane, which was nearly 30 years old “and had a 20-year lifespan,” also has been replaced.

Changes have been made to the customer service desk and surrounding area, as well.

New furniture, purchased in January, has arrived but not yet put into place, so it’s clustered “in the middle of the library -- we’ve got some rearranging to do,” Springer said. “I’ve moved furniture many times.”

Most of the lighting has been changed to LED throughout the building.

A “slide tube,” connecting the children’s area upstairs with the main floor, was installed recently.

Springer said he is hoping the construction and remodeling project, which will bring the facility into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including restroom makeovers, will be completed within weeks.

The work that’s been done over the past three years “will take care of things for many years,” said Berry, who has served on the board for five years and as its president for more than two years.

“It’s going to look amazing; people are going to be surprised,” he said. “It’s an extreme makeover.”

“We’re excited,” Wendt said. “We’re anxious to open, but we want everybody to be safe.”