L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St.

Eau Claire’s public library will reopen on Wednesday to in-person customers, but require patrons to schedule an appointment to browse the bookshelves or use computers.

Closed since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic on March 17, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St., will impose limits on how many patrons can be in the building at a time.

Between people there to search for materials or use the library’s computers, a maximum of 15 patrons will be allowed in the building at one time, according to a news release sent Monday.

There will be a maximum of 10 people allowed to browse for books or other materials between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. This is for people of all ages. Children who accompany their parents will count toward the 10-person limit.

Between 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, the library will reserve time for older adults and people with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness related to COVID-19.

Adults can use the library’s computers between 10:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays by appointment for 75 minutes at a time. Only five people will be allowed to use library computers at one time.

Those looking to make an appointment for browsing can call 715-839-5066 while people looking to use a library computer need to contact 715-839-5004 or email reference@eauclaire.lib.wi.us.

Library users will be required to wear a face mask while in the building. Disposable masks and face shields will be available to those who don’t bring their own.

People are also to abide by the social distancing requirement of keeping six feet apart from each other.

Those who have signs of illness or have been exposed to people with COVID-19 symptoms are not to visit the library.

Other public libraries in Eau Claire County are also preparing to reopen to guests.

The Augusta Memorial Public Library announced it will reopen next week, also requiring appointments and setting a low maximum capacity.

Starting Monday, the library will allow five people at a time inside the building for 30-minute, scheduled appointments. Patrons are asked to wear face masks while inside the library.

Parents are advised to not bring young children as there are no toys, games or activities to occupy them, the Augusta library stated in a news release. There will be craft and activity bags, and information on summer reading challenges and other activities that parents can bring home to their children.

To schedule an appointment, call the Augusta library at 715-286-2070 or email aulib@augustalibrary.org.

The Altoona Public Library has not yet set a date for reopening, but hopes to begin letting customers in the building sometime next week, according to library director Alyson Jones.

When it does reopen, up to 10 visitors can sign up for 50-minute time slots to be inside the building. After those patrons leave, library staff will spend 10 minutes cleaning surfaces those people touched before the next customers arrive.

The library has some internal and external factors to take care of before announcing a reopening date, Jones said. One of those is the installation of plexiglass barriers at the circulation desk, creating a clear shield to prevent employees and patrons from spreading germs.

When the library does reopen to in-person business, Jones said it will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The library will do curbside materials pickup on Tuesdays through Thursdays. Eau Claire and Augusta public libraries also plan to continue their curbside pickup services as well.

As libraries begin to reopen, Jones said they’re weighing ongoing public health concerns with their duty to serve the literary and educational needs of their communities.

“We’re trying to find the intersection between accessibility and responsibility,” she said.

According to a Monday’s news release, L.E. Phillips and other public libraries are abiding by guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and taking cues from local health officials.

Eau Claire’s library management considers Wednesday’s reopening as “phase one” of careful steps toward fully reopening the facility, the library stated. Loosening or tightening the safety restrictions will be influenced by regular COVID-19 updates from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

The Eau Claire library noted that on a normal day there are 1,200 people who visit its building. Only 240 will be able to use the library each day between materials pickup, in-person browsing and computer use based on the limits that will be in place later this week.