Library continuing capital projects; Bookmobile ceremony is May 27; COVID rules changing; operating hours to expand
The Great Falls Public Library staff and board are transitioning out of their COVID-19 response and also continuing capital improvements.
The roof replacement project project is currently out to bid and due June 16.
Susie McIntyre, library director, told the board during their May 25 meeting that they’re hoping for bids around the estimated cost of $125,000.
During the April board meeting, McIntyre told the board that no asbestos was found in the roof.
The last time it was repaired/replaced was 1996, McIntyre said in a previous meeting.
The new Bookmobile was delivered April 29 and the library is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. May 27, though it’s already operational in the community.
McIntyre thanked the city public works department for modifying the library’s garage for the new vehicle, fabricating a new ramp for access and selling the old vehicle in a public auction.
The new Bookmobile was hit by a deer on its way to Great Falls and staff are working with the vendor to have it repaired.
McIntyre is beginning a conversation with the Cascade County Commission regarding the county’s agreement with the Great Falls Public Library for services and funding, since it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 1979, McIntyre told the library board.
McIntyre said there’s a 2014 draft of the agreement that wasn’t signed and staff doesn’t know why.
The library board’s naming committee has begun meeting and plans to meet with local groups and hold community meetings through September to gather input on the proposal to rename the library for Alma Jacobs, the former director of the library, and then begin its report to the full library board by December.
Library staff have also adjusted their COVID policies based on the current case numbers in the community and recent law changes by the Montana Legislature.
Due to a state law change, the library stopped enforcing its mask policy last week, a week earlier than planned and during the May 25 meeting, McIntyre asked the board for feedback regarding the requirement for staff to wear masks.
Up until this week, the library was the last city department requiring staff to wear masks and since most employees are union members, it was causing issues, she said.
McIntyre said that after consulting the city’s human resources department, employees can’t be required to wear masks.
She said that some staff have been vaccinated and some haven’t, but managers can’t ask about vaccination status.
City Commissioner Mary Moe, who serves as the city commission’s liaison to the library board, said that if HR is saying masks can’t be required, then “the case is closed. It doesn’t matter what we think.”
County Commissioner Don Ryan, the county’s representative, said that the Legislature had “basically tied our hands” on mask rules within the library.
McIntyre said that beginning this week masks will no longer be required for employees, but still recommended for both employees and patrons and the library will continue providing free masks to anyone who wants one.
Staff is also looking at expanding operating hours beginning June 28 to Mondays 12-6 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., bringing the library up to 46 operating hours per week, below the 50 hour threshold for state public library standards, McIntyre said.
Operations will go back to the 50-hour level when the library is open until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, beginning in mid- to late-July or early August, McIntyre said.
Whitney Olsen, library board chair, asked if the library had enough staffing to staff for 50-hours weekly.
McIntyre said no, the library is not adequately staffed so she and other managers will be working shifts at the circulation desk and will also prioritize operating hours over programming and other activities for the short-term.
She said that she’s requesting additional staff in the upcoming budget to handle the operating hours and run the Bookmobile more days a week.
The library receives nine mills annually under an agreement with the city and for many years the city funded the library above that required level, until budget strain in 2014 caused the city to reduce the additional subsidy.