Back to the stacks: EPL lets patrons inside as library system moves to next phase of re-opening

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With newly expanded service, library patrons can access the computers (reservations are recommended by phone or online), print, fax and copy materials, seek advice from librarians and create new accounts.

Martinez said staff expect to see socially vulnerable people accessing the library system once again, especially now that the Expo Centre has closed its doors to the homeless. She said a new program called EPL in the Square will be announced within a few days and will offer short-term, day programming in Winston Churchill Square for all comers, but geared toward marginalized Edmontonians.

The program is a joint effort of the EPL and the city of Edmonton, plus downtown institutions including the Citadel and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Martinez said the Stanley A. Milner Library in Downtown, which closed for a massive renovation in 2016, will open this fall, promising an exact date within weeks.

Not all library services are starting anew in Phase 3. Popular indoor programs at the library, such as the children’s program Sing, Sign, Laugh and Learn, will continue to be offered online until the library resumes full services at an unspecified date. She notes that some digital offerings launched during the pandemic such as Cree language classes have proved “incredibly popular and are oversubscribed.”

“We’ll continue to innovate,” said Martinez.

Phase 3 sees branches posting staff members at the entrance to monitor the number of users, dispense mandated masks (until they run out) and offer hand sanitizer. Capacity is limited to 50 per cent. While patrons are allowed to take a physically distanced seat, they are asked not to linger within the library. No newspapers or magazines are available for reading.

“There are no quick fixes, no silver bullets,” said Martinez. “Despite that, we hope to meet the needs of our community.”


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