As COVID-19 cases surge, Lead library to remain closed

The Lead library will not open soon due to the rising COVID-19 numbers in the area. Pioneer photo by Wendy Pitlick

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LEAD — The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library is not likely to open soon, but curbside pickup is still available.

Though officials have been discussing the possibility of re-opening the library, Lead City Commissioners expressed discomfort with the idea due to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s not so much that we want it to open, but we want to have a conversation about how we plan to open in the future,” said Mayor Ron Everett. “This is not a time to be opening things up.”

The Hearst Library closed its doors to the public in March, when COVID-19 cases started growing across the nation. During that time, state and national officials used a model to extrapolate that the peak spread would likely occur in the summer. However, in the last few months COVID-19 cases have surged throughout the state with 66,278 new cases, and 644 deaths. Lawrence County has been no exception.

Lead City Administrator Mike Stahl acknowledged that residents are weary of the closure, since it has been eight months since patrons have been able to use the library. But he urged residents to be diligent and safe.

“There are thousands of people working to solve this problem, if not millions,” he said. “It will come. Don’t become weary and don’t put your guard down. The COVID is not putting its guard down.”

Stahl further explained that Cyndie Harlan, director of the Hearst Library had indicated that the library board was recommending not opening its doors at this time. Harlan said that recommendation is on par with what other libraries around the area are considering.

“I’ve been reaching out to other libraries and it seems like people are pulling back,” she said. “Considering what we’re up against, it’s probably the safest thing to do.”

Patty Brown, director of the Deadwood library, said her facility will be closing its doors and offering curbside service on Nov. 30, with a planned re-opening date in January. The reason for the closure has nothing to do with COVID-19, she said, but rather is the result of technology upgrades that will occur.

In Spearfish and Sturgis, library directors report that their doors are open with some limitations. Sturgis Library Director Julie Peterson said they are open with limited hours, and they have set aside one hour in the morning that is exclusively for elderly and patients with compromised immune systems to use the space. Additionally, she said the Sturgis Library does home deliveries for patrons who are unable to leave home. In Spearfish, Library Director Amber Wilde said her facility has been open with full hours since June, with some occupancy limitations. Both facilities have also maintained their curbside services.

Currently the Hearst Library is offering curbside pickup services on Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by special appointment. During this time, a library volunteer watches at the door for patrons who come to pick up their pre-ordered books. The books are then hung on the door for pickup. Patrons are encouraged to visit the library website at lead.yoursdlibrary.org/ for a list of titles. Additionally, Harlan said library staff has been trying to make sure the front window display is updated with all of the latest titles, for those who are not able to access the website. The library staff is also available to make recommendations, and this option is particularly important for children. Patrons are invited to call for recommendations at 584-2013.

“A lot of parents are opting to homeschool, and they give us the topic they’re working on and we’ll pick the books that apply to that topic,” Harlan said. “It’s pretty painless and easy. We’ve also got a display of new acquisitions in the front window. We try to keep that current as well, so people can come and see what we have if they’re not comfortable searching online.”

Additionally, Harlan said the library is still doing virtual children’s programming and book clubs.

Harlan said the library is currently checking out about 1,000 titles per month.

City Commissioner Colin Greenfield pointed out on Monday that opening the library prematurely could mean the loss of services altogether.

“We can’t let (COVID-19) run our lives, but we do have to let it determine our decisions,” he said at the Monday commission meeting. “Our library has three staff members. If any one of them would contract the virus, they would all be out and we would have no services. So, we can have nothing or maintain as we are.”

Harlan agreed. “That’s absolutely the bottom line,” she said. “If we want to keep doing what we’re doing, we have to keep staff safe. Staff has been really spectacular about making sure everything that goes out the door is going out safely.”

The Lead Library Board has developed a plan for re-opening the facility, but it’s one that may not be implemented soon, Harlan said. The plan includes limiting the number of patrons and the amount of time they can spend inside the building.

“Basically, we have a plan to reopen when the date gets determined,” Harlan said. “We had hoped to be open by now, but the situation is such that it doesn’t seem like the safe time to do that.”

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