Red Deer Public Library branches have joined the list of city services that are now closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, the city announced all of its recreational and cultural facilities were temporarily closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Library CEO Shelley Ross said all branches are closed to the public until Alberta Health Services supports their reopening. But people can still access e-books, newspapers, magazines, music, audio books and more online.
Those without library cards can get temporary 90-day cards for online access by contacting library staff, who will remain on the job.
Ross said libraries could get very busy if they were the only public facilities left open, and believes now is not a good time to be busy.
“Once we knew that classes were cancelled, and once we knew that facilities were closing, we knew that we pretty much had to close, because we would probably be where everyone comes who maybe isn’t in the best of health, and we’d be mixing populations,” Ross said.
She said thousands of books are borrowed annually from the library’s stacks, and to clean everything would be too much for staff. Last year, 156,548 books were borrowed from Red Deer library branches.
Over the weekend, the downtown branch saw an increase in visitors preparing in case of a temporary closure.
Libraries are often a place homeless people visit during the day. On Sunday, city administration said its emergency operations centre was working to address the unique needs and challenges of the homeless population and ensure that adequate supports were available from Alberta Health Services.
Mayor Tara Veer said the emergency operations centre was in regular contact with agencies serving vulnerable populations.
“Particularly given the situation of shelter in Red Deer, and how significant the infrastructure needs are for shelter in Red Deer, this is obviously of concern, particularly given AHS’s mandate for social distance,” Veer said during Sunday’s press conference.
People who want to learn how to access library materials on laptop or desktop computers, tablets and cellphones, can call 403-346-4576, or contact the library through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
“We will be answering the phones and giving people their options. We’ll talk people through if they have to install apps on their devices.”
Ross said people who are self-isolating have already been contacting the library to use online resources, so online traffic has increased.
Last year, online circulation of e-books, audio books, e-magazines and music totalled 199,989.
Library users who have already received a hold notification can come to the downtown branch and alert a commissionaire to have their material brought to the library door.
Materials currently on loan can be kept until branches reopen, and overdue fines and fees are suspended.
Materials can be returned to the exterior book drops at the downtown branch. Book drops at Dawe and Timberstone branches are closed.