City libraries to begin lengthy reopening process in June


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Three city libraries will offer limited service next month, as the Millennium Library temporarily scraps its hotly debated metal detector screenings and bag checks.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/05/2020 (1034 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Three city libraries will offer limited service next month, as the Millennium Library temporarily scraps its hotly debated metal detector screenings and bag checks.

The Manitoba government allowed libraries to reopen on May 4, under strict social-distancing rules owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winnipeg won’t begin its first chapter of what appears to be a lengthy reopening process until June 8, however, when the Millennium, Henderson, and Pembina Trail libraries will let customers pick up items they’ve gone online to place on hold.

“We will only allow entry into the library to people who are there to pick up their holds and will also limit the number of people allowed into the library at one time. Due to these safety measures, metal detectors and bag checks will not be used during the library’s reopening plan phase one,” said Felicia Wiltshire, the city’s communications director, in an email.

Wiltshire said no decision on those airport-like security measures has been made for the next phase of library reopenings, which the city currently expects will begin in July.

The extra security was added at Millennium in February 2019, with a goal to reduce incidents involving violence, threats, drugs and weapons.

Critics repeatedly protested the measures as excessive and unwelcoming in a public space. And while the number of security incidents at the library dropped from 559 in 2018 to 317 in 2019, Millennium’s attendance fell by one-third during the same period.

Jason Shaw, Winnipeg’s assistant chief of emergency management, said other security measures will remain in place.

The first phase of library reopenings will allow pickups from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at Millennium, and during the same hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at Henderson and Pembina Trail. Henderson and Pembina will also offer the service from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

Customers won’t be able to return books or enter the branches to browse for additional ones.

Shaw said there are far more pandemic risks involved in a full library reopening than Winnipeggers may realize, including concerns about the constant touching and returning of books, as well as small spaces between some bookshelves that could impede social distancing.

“We want to make that sure that we do it slow and we want to make sure that we do it safe,” he said.

Shaw said the city will forgive fines for those who can’t return books on time due to pandemic restrictions.

Mayor Brian Bowman said the city is not delaying the resumption of library services to save money, even as COVID-19 wreaks havoc with the city’s budget.

“The topic of the finances hasn’t been something that’s been raised privately or publicly. (This decision has been made) through the safety lens,” said Bowman.

Meanwhile, Shaw said the city will close nine enhanced active transportation routes on July 6. The routes limit vehicle traffic to one block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day to provide extra space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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