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Safety more vital than speediness

DEAR EDITOR:

As a member of the board of trustees of the McKinley Memorial Library, I was disappointed and disheartened by your Sunday editorial exhorting area libraries to fully reopen “with more urgency.”

Based on Gov. Mike DeWine’s Responsible RestartOhio program, the McKinley Memorial Library’s plan to reopen features a cautious and phased-in return to service. The health and safety of our patrons and staff remain a high priority, and we want to make sure we have the types and quantity of supplies needed, as well as meeting state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols for operating in a pandemic.

You urge us to find creative ways to serve the needs of our patrons. Indeed, we are doing that, and our plan does call for some of your recommendations, including installation of plexiglass partitions and increased cleaning. This is not inexpensive. Additionally, the demand for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies is high.

You are correct in saying we are taxpayer funded, but did you know that our state revenue has been reduced? May was 34.5 percent below expected revenue. That trend is expected to continue. Further, libraries were not included in the economic recovery plan, receiving none of the financial relief for which businesses were eligible to apply.

Certainly, hair salons and tattoo parlors were allowed to reopen, but many of them allow for only the proprietor and a single customer. Many other businesses still offer only carry-out service. Both Niles and Warren city administration buildings remain closed to walk-ins. Finally, many, many people have stopped taking precautions against the virus. Even if we are able to provide masks and gloves to our patrons, how do we make sure they use them and then dispose of them properly?

Our multistage plan is working well, and I commend McKinley Memorial Library Director Michelle Alleman for the time and effort she has put into it. We understand the need for services and are doing our best to reopen fully. While consulting with the Ohio Library Council’s Best Practices and Roadmap for Reopening Ohio’s Public Libraries, we decided to cancel all in-person programming throughout August. We have, however, introduced virtual programming, including an all-ages Summer Reading and Activity Challenge. Others are being added daily.

We are not happy that we cannot open our doors, as there is no substitute for the relationships our staff has developed with patrons, but safely reopening is better than quickly reopening.

MICHELLE MONTEFORTE GRAY

Member, Board of Trustees

McKinley Memorial Library

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