All Halifax public libraries to reopen by July 7
Physical book returns will resume again on Tuesday
All Halifax public libraries are expected to reopen to the public by early July, three months after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're doing some preparations to our built environment, to our library spaces, to make sure that when we do open the doors, the community can be here in a safe way," said Åsa Kachan, chief librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries.
Kachan said the branches will reopen gradually over the next couple of weeks, depending on when each facility is capable of adhering to public health rules.
All libraries should be open by July 7, but Kachan said people should contact their local branch to find out exactly when it will open.
Kachan said a sector plan was presented to the Department of Health and Wellness detailing what reopened libraries would look like.
She said library visitors should expect to see new signage reminding them of which direction to walk, proper handwashing techniques and not to touch their face.
The libraries have also spread computers farther apart to abide by public health's physical distancing rule of two metres and outside spaces will also be expanded to include more seating and better wireless internet.
Kachan said these changes are for the public's safety and library staff are looking forward to opening the doors.
"It is all ultimately about achieving the same outcome that the libraries always been here for," she said.
"It's a thriving community. It's making sure that we connect with one another and we can read and learn and grow together so that is still what we're all about."
Curbside pickup will continue
Even before the doors open, readers will be able to get their hands on physical books.
A pilot project for contactless curbside pickup at the Sheet Harbour and Woodlawn libraries that began in late May has been recently extended to 10 other branches, including the Dartmouth North Public Library and the Halifax Central Library.
Debbie Lebel, senior manager of access, told CBC News in May that patrons of these branches who had set up a hold way back in March will be called or emailed by the library. They'll be told when to stop by the library and a staff member will deliver the book, much like how click-and-collect groceries work.
Once those holds are distributed, the service will be expanded to let all patrons at those branches borrow new materials and set up new holds.
Kachan said curbside pickup will continue for the foreseeable future.
"It's partly about serving people before we open our doors, but even after our doors are opened, there will be individuals in our community, for a variety of personal health reasons, [who] may be reluctant to come into the library," she said. "They're still our community and they still deserve our service."
Return your books
Now that the libraries are reopening, physical book returns will also be starting back up again on Tuesday.
Kachan said there are about 140,000 library items in the community since loan periods were extended during the pandemic.
Loans periods will continue to be extended for physical items like books and instruments, and will also be offered on items borrowed via the curbside pick-up.
After the libraries reopen, borrowers will have three weeks to return their physical items. There will be no late fees enforced while branches are closed, or during the three weeks after they reopen.
With files from Haley Ryan