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Library to turn page on extended opening

T-R FILE PHOTO Marshalltown Public Library Director Sarah Rosenblum said the facility will expand its hours and services on Monday. Not only will residents have more of an opportunity to browse the books, but some toys will be brought out for children to play with.

The Marshalltown Public Library is ready for its next chapter in the long pandemic story.

Starting Monday the library will expand its hours and services. The extended opening is the next step toward a new normal, according to Director Sarah Rosenblum.

The new hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

“We are still asking people to wear masks and social distance,” Rosenblum said. “We’re going to monitor the number of people in the building. So far we’ve never had to hold people in a line or anything.”

More seating will be available than previously. Visitors have been allowed 45 minutes to browse or use study areas but the time limit will be increased to 90 minutes. Rosenblum said most of the visitors who would use the full 90 minutes would be using it for studying.

Some of the play materials will be brought back out for visitors, such as the Lego table. The Lego sets will be switched out and sanitized between users.

The library started a walkthrough phase of reopening in February which allowed visitors in the building for the first time since November.

“It’s gone really well. Our core group of curbside users want to browse too,” Rosenblum said. “It seems like the worst weather brings people out.”

Throughout the last year the library has had very few COVID-19 infections according to Rosenblum. She said one of the goals of their handling of the pandemic was to be consistent. She did not want the library to constantly dial up and down its response.

“We’re still monitoring the situation. There still appears to be quite a few who need to get vaccinations both nationwide and locally,” she said. “The goal is to keep everyone safe.”

Rosenblum is keeping an eye on the State Library of Iowa for guidance. She is also observing how other libraries are approaching the pandemic and reopening. She said Marshalltown has been a little ahead of other libraries.

Rosenblum also stays updated with virus numbers and recommendations from the state and the Centers for Disease Control. She communicates with Pat Thompson, public health director, regularly.

Gov. Kim Reynolds recently announced vaccinations will be open to all Iowans on April 5.

“I anticipate things will expand in hopefully pretty much the near future,” Rosenblum said. “I don’t have all the answers. I’ve learned more than I thought I’d ever know about filtration systems and aerosol droplets.”

More outdoor programming is expected through the spring and summer. By the end of the summer the hope is to have speakers at the library again in preparation of the traveling Holocaust exhibit coming in 2022.

As difficult as the pandemic has been on avid library visitors, library staff have also beared down to keep providing services.

“My team, all of us have not taken a vacation in a year,” Rosenblum said. “Now we have four service points because we’ve created a concierge desk. So we have to think, “Do we have staffing to cover four service points so we can deliver safe and excellent quality service?” We’re trying to be thoughtful and moving forward.”

“I used to say making a decision on closing on a snow day was the hardest decision,” she added. “But that’s been blown out the water.”

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