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New Model for Library Services

The Pulaski County Public Library is rolling out a limited in-house service model as part of its COVID-19 response as it continues to adapt to meet the community's needs.

This new model lists four levels of service, Blue through Red, based on the Indiana Department of Health's COVID-19 county color coding. The types of services available to library patrons, from in-person browsing to contactless curbside delivery, are dependent on the library's current level. Some services may be different from what patrons were used to before the pandemic hit, and new guidelines have been implemented to ensure the health and safety of patrons, staff, and the community.

As of December 9th, the library's service level is Red. Confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 are currently at record highs in Pulaski County. Based on the current Red tier, the library offers contactless curbside services and remote reference assistance at this time.

The library recently completed a lead and asbestos abatement project that has allowed it to reduce staff space and enlarge the available public space. Completion for most areas of the project is set for December, and the staff has been anxiously awaiting the library's opening. Unfortunately, library service during a pandemic is different.

"In the last decade, public libraries have transitioned to a living room model. People have been encouraged to charge their phones, conduct meetings, hang out after school, participate in community craft activities, or play with our interactive children's toys," says MacKenzie Ledley, Executive Director of the Pulaski County Public Library. "Most of these services are things we cannot provide safely during a pandemic. We have had to consider everything from airflow and Plexiglas screens to the right way to disinfect computer keyboards... even how long to quarantine returned books. Our team has evaluated what services we can provide effectively by consulting architects, engineers, and national library leaders. We've also followed a scientific study on how long the virus survives on all types of library materials. The library serves people from birth to death, and we've had to think long and hard about how we can do this safely."

Since the pandemic was declared in March, the library has worked to find new ways to deliver services to patrons. From curbside delivery of library materials to virtual Zoom programs for kids and adults to activity kits and grab & go packs, serving the local community has remained the library's guiding principle. Transitioning to the limited in-house service level model is just one more way the library is adapting to meet the reality of the times and serve the people's needs.

"While we need to reduce many of our in-house services to do our part in the effort to keep the community safe, please know we are still here, available to help you and connect you with many resources. We remain deeply committed to providing a low-risk environment for our library patrons and staff," Ledley says. "I am grateful for the advice of the local health department to create a responsible service model, and I look forward to welcoming you back to the library as soon as our local count begins to decrease."

The service status level is updated weekly on the library website while the public health emergency is ongoing. You can find the current status online or by calling the library. During in-person browsing times, books will be checked out by patrons using a self-checkout station. No public programming or meeting room space will be available. Staff members will be limited to providing in-person services from a safe physical distance.

Weather permitting, a public Internet terminal will be available outside the library for walk-up use. The library expanded its Wi-Fi signal in the spring; service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The library will continue to regularly provide engaging virtual programming and reference services so that patrons can access reputable content from the comfort of home. From Gale Courses to streaming music and video, book clubs, classes, and ebooks & audiobooks, the library has various virtual experiences for all ages to enjoy. For patrons who prefer more tangible services, library staff can provide telephone or email reference services and pull materials for contactless pickup at the library curbside.

"Adapting to meet the needs of a changing world isn't new for libraries," Ledley says, "We've successfully adapted before, and we will continue to evolve during this public health emergency."

The library team is available to answer any questions you may have 9:00–6:00 Monday–Friday by calling (574) 946-3432 or by emailing info@pulaskicounty.lib.in.us.

For more information on the state's color status and metrics, please visit www.coronavirus.in.gov. For further guidance on the Library's COVID mitigation efforts, please visit www.pulaskicounty.lib.in.us/pcpl-covid-19-response.  To learn more about the library's service levels specfically, visit https://www.pulaskicounty.lib.in.us/service-levels.

Page published 12-9-20.  Updated the service level rubric image on 2-24-21 so that it displays the correct, current version seen at https://www.pulaskicounty.lib.in.us/service-levels.