City announces 1st phase of limited Winnipeg library reopenings will begin June 8

The city will be partially reopening three libraries on Monday, June 8, with Millennium Library, along with the Henderson and Pembina Trails branches, reopening only for pickup of held items.

Millennium Library, along with Henderson and Pembina Trails branches, will open only for pickup of held items

Winnipeg's downtown branch is one of three libraries city officials announced will be partially reopening on June 8. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Winnipeg's mayor says the city will be partially reopening three libraries on Monday, June 8, with the downtown Millennium Library and two branches allowing users to pick up held items.

Brian Bowman made the announcement on Tuesday, during an update on the city's response to COVID-19 at city hall.

"The numbers that we're seeing being released daily from the province of Manitoba are quite remarkable," he said.

"When you look at the numbers of [COVID-19 cases], and sadly deaths … in other cities, you know Winnipeggers have been doing their part."

There were no new cases of COVID-19 announced in Manitoba on Tuesday — the fourth consecutive day with no new cases.

In the first stage of the city's plan to restore library services, three branches will initially reopen, with reduced hours, for Winnipeggers to pick up items on hold, emergency operations centre manager Jason Shaw said:

  • Millennium Library: Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Henderson Library: Monday to Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Pembina Trails Library: Monday to Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Browsing will not be permitted, Shaw said, nor will returns at this point.

"The process of bringing back returns is actually a lot more complicated than it first appears," Shaw said, adding he wants to avoid a "surge" of borrowed materials coming back.

The city is still working out a "lot of little details," such as how to clean and handle books before resorting them, Shaw said.

The libraries are looking at relaxing fines on late returns, Shaw said.

"We want to make sure that [Winnipeggers are] forgiven for the fines up to a certain date level, because they're taking care of the books for us right now, and we want those books back."

City officials hope to bring residents back in the libraries soon. (Daniel Gagne/CBC)

Pickups will be limited to one person per family, but users will be able to pick up held items for other "family members" if they bring their library cards.

Physical distancing will be required, and anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed entry.

"The requirement to get a book is you're going to have to go through some screening," Shaw said.

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Shaw was also asked if the metal detectors and bag checks that were previously in place at Millennium Library will be part of the reopening.

"Because we're not allowing our citizens and customers and library users to be able to enter fully into the facilities, the security requirements won't be as they were before," he said, but added it will be "up to the library team" to establish security measures for the reopening.

Library staff on site will be trained on safety protocols, hand sanitizer will be available at entrances, and Plexiglas shields will be installed at the checkouts, according to a city news release.

Shaw could not say Tuesday how many library staff who have been laid off during the pandemic will be brought back.

The next phase of library reopenings is expected to occur sometime in early July, Shaw said, after the city assesses its first stage. The next stage will likely include expanding services such as checkout and returns at branches, he said.

Further changes hinge on province's plans

Shaw also spoke Tuesday about future plans for the "enhanced" active transportation routes put in place in certain areas of the city, which have seen motor vehicle traffic limited every day on some streets.

The city will extend the pedestrian and bike route changes until Monday, July 6, at which time they will be phased out.

Nine streets have been shut down with barricades daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., limiting vehicle traffic to one block, as a temporary measure to allow people to get outside in their neighbourhoods, Shaw said.

"As the province moves into Phase 2 of their [reopening] plan, we feel it will also be time to wind these temporary measures, and that is why we will be discontinuing them."

Shaw said the city is still reviewing the province's draft proposal for Manitoba's next stage of reopening. The city is waiting for the Manitoba government to set a date for that to come into effect, in order to understand the requirements and restrictions city facilities will need to follow under updated provincial public health orders.

"I'd rather be criticized for being slow than opening a city service too fast and potentially not helping with breaking the chain of transmission, so we're taking a safe approach," Shaw said, as the city continues to assess best practices for restoring library services.

The city hopes to reopen spray pads soon, with more details expected in the coming days, he said.

With files from Austin Grabish


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