Kids have been relying upon their own resources for learning and areas of interest, short of having a library to physically go to. (File photo)

Governor’s latest is that they may be at 25% capacity

WHATCOM — Administrators with the Whatcom County Library System are reviewing Gov. Jay Inslee’s Oct. 6 announcement that library buildings may reopen at 25 percent capacity during Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start plan.

Opening dates for Whatcom County library buildings have not been set. Whatcom County health guidelines as well as the libraries’ ability to ensure patron and staff health will determine when buildings reopen, according to a WCLS press release.

Library buildings had previously been included in Phase 3 openings.

“The health and safety of our staff and patrons is our number one priority,” said WCLS executive director Christine Perkins. “We have been working to prepare for a Phase 3 re-opening of library buildings, including modifying our public spaces to accommodate social distancing, purchasing personal protection equipment for staff, hosting staff training sessions and creating new service models. We need to adjust our plans to adapt to the recent updates.”

While operational modifications are in progress, county health trends will also guide building openings. Despite positive trends in COVID-19 cases statewide, Whatcom County continues to report new cases and deaths from the virus. 

When library buildings reopen, visitors can expect these changes to regular services throughout phase 2 and 3 of the Safe Start plan:

  •    Face masks will be required for everyone over the age of 2 to enter library buildings. Those who are unable or unwilling to wear a face mask properly will not be allowed to enter and will be directed to use alternative services. 
  •    The public will be encouraged to keep visits brief, selecting materials quickly for checkout.
  •    The number of visitors who may enter library buildings will be limited to 25% capacity during Phase 2 and to 50% capacity in Phase 3. Be prepared to wait outside if the building is at capacity.
  •    Visitors will be expected to maintain six feet distance between themselves and others.
  •    The library will not offer public meeting room reservations nor any in-person programs or events.
  •    Branch library open hours will be limited; visit for the latest schedule.

WCLS library buildings have been closed since March 16, 2020, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Despite building closures, library services have continued, including access to e-Books and eAudiobooks, digital content, online events, curbside pickup of library materials, and WiFi from library parking lots.

“We’ve never stopped delivering service to our community,” Perkins said. “A library is more than a building. Our dedicated staff found new ways to keep our community connected during this unusual time, and I am extremely proud of their inspired work and commitment to our mission.”

WCLS serves residents outside the city limits of Bellingham with 10 branches, a bookmobile and a book pickup location on Northwest Drive. WCLS branches are located in Blaine, Deming, Everson, Ferndale, Kendall, Lummi Island, Lynden, Point Roberts, Sudden Valley and Sumas.

Updates will be posted to and to the county library system’s social media channels.