Some LA libraries will soon reopen with medical-grade public computers, Plexiglass barriers, and more

Written and produced by Jenna Kagel

Some LA County public library branches will reopen with limited in-person services on May 3. Photo by Shutterstock.

LA County is on track to enter the yellow tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan by next week. That means bars, movie theaters, and restaurants can expand indoor capacity. Saunas, steam rooms, and bars that don’t sell food will be allowed to operate indoors again.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Public Library will begin limited in-person services at the Central Library and 37 branches across the city.

Early in the pandemic, librarians worked as coronavirus contact tracers, and Lupie Leyva, a senior librarian at the Robert Louis Stevenson Branch in Boyle Heights, shared her experience doing that. Now Leyva and others are going back to their day jobs as librarians. She speaks to KCRW about preparing for the reopening. 

KCRW: How are you preparing for your branch’s reopening on Monday? 

Lupie Leyva: “We have had library to-go, which is curbside service for several months and that will continue. ... Some of us, including my own branch, we're going to be opening for browsing. And also we're going to be offering computers. So a lot of our patrons like to come into our branches to use computers, and those are going to be available. 

Of course, we are working in reduced capacity. … We want to make sure that we have a safe and welcoming environment for everybody so that everybody can enjoy coming back to the library.”

How do you make libraries safe when they have shared, public things like computers and books? 

“One example is that our public computers were upgraded, so the keyboards and mice that we use now are actually medical grade, which makes sanitizing a whole lot easier. 

And of course, we're going to be sanitizing and disinfecting continuously throughout the day in the high-touch areas. [That includes] the public restrooms, for example, which are going to be open at the branches that are open to the public. And of course, we do have Plexiglas barriers between staff and patrons at our service desks. And we do have decals so that people can be mindful of social distancing inside the branches.

“We will have a welcome station at all the branches that are opening to the public, where our patrons can go and ask questions. In some cases, welcome stations will actually be outside the building. So for example, in my library, our welcome station is outside the building. So if people want to know what services we offer, or if they're a little bit hesitant to come inside the building, they can come to our welcome station outside.”

Libraries have been an access point for unhoused people to go on the internet or just quietly hang out. Will that continue?  

“I know a lot of people love to come to the library and hang out all day, but right now, that's not possible because we do have to adhere to the capacity limits and the reopening protocols from the Department of Public Health. So right now, if you want to come in and grab some books, you're welcome to come in and browse through the collection. But we do ask that you try to keep your visits as brief as possible.

In the future, we do want to be able to open our doors all day for whoever wants to come in, because basically libraries do welcome everyone. And we try to respond to our communities as best as we can. Of course, keeping in mind that communities are different. 

My community in Boyle Heights has different concerns and different ways that we try to serve the community — than libraries in Brentwood, for example. But we all have as our main purpose — serving our community. And so what we … try to do is … offer our communities everything that they love about libraries.

More than half of our branches are going to be offering some type of service. And right now the best thing to do is to go to our website at www.lapl.org/reopening, because that has all the details about which branches offer what types of services and answers all the questions that people might have.”

Are you done contact tracing?

“I am personally, but there's still a core group of city employees that are still doing some contact tracing along with county employees. Now, I don't know how long that might go on. But I know that most of us are back at the library and trying to get everything ready to welcome our public back.” 

Credits

Guest:

  • Lupie Leyva - Senior Librarian, Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library