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Rolla Public Library Uses Local Health Department Numbers To Decide How To Open

Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
The Rolla Public Library closed the building and offered only curbside service after the health department reported more than 50 new cases. If there are fewer than 50, the library will open.

ROLLA — While many businesses and gathering places are following the guidance of their local government on when they can be open because of coronavirus concerns, the Rolla Public Library is making its own decision and doing it by the numbers.

The library board is deciding week by week if it will fully open or restrict service to curbside and internet usage by appointment.

The Phelps-Maries County Health Department reports COVID numbers every Thursday and Monday. The library board decided that if there are 50 or more new cases from Thursday to Monday, it’s curbside only for the rest of the week. If there are fewer, the library will open.

Library Director Rebecca Buckley says she did not want to wait to react to local business decisions or guidance from the city.

“You could say, if my neighbor does this, then I’m going to do it. But I wanted to have a plan out there well in advance so that patrons wouldn’t be surprised about the closure. Because we were all really kind of surprised the last time,” Buckley said.

The report from last Monday showed 54 new cases, so the library operated via curbside only service this past week. This Monday night, the library will look at the newest numbers and announce its decision for the next Tuesday through Monday period.

“I didn’t want it to be open and closing. Open and closing. This way, we are making the decision once a week on Monday evening, after they make the announcement as far as the rest of the week goes,” Buckley said. “It just made it way simpler.”

Buckley said she got the idea from the Pulaski County Library District in the neighboring county.

Larger library systems like St. Louis' that have multiple branches with very different layouts have a more complicated set of decisions to make. They also have local governments that have mandates in place about masks and social distancing.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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