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Staff member Ethan Beck returns boks to the closed off shelves of the Williston Community Library. The library begins a phased opening on Jan 4.

The building is quiet inside, even for a library, but all that is going to start changing in the next few weeks.

The Williston Community Library has been essentially closed since the pandemic began hitting the Williston area hard earlier this year. While the library has worked in the meantime to provide a number of alternative services, such as online checkouts, curbside pickup and more, the building itself has been closed to the public for several months. Beginning Monday, Jan 4, that’s going to change, but slowly.

As COVID numbers begin to decrease in the area, library staff, along with guidance from the library Board and the City of Williston, will open their doors to the public once again, but only for limited computer use. Library Director Andrea Placher said the small-scale opening will hopefully be the stepping stone to allowing full use of the library.

“I feel like this is our path to getting back to whatever the new normal may be,” Placher told the Williston Herald. “Our number one priority is to keep our staff and the community as safe and healthy as we can, while still providing as many services as we are able. So being able to open, even just the computers, means more to us than people realize.”

Placher said masks will be mandatory for both staff and patrons, and that mask will be provided to those who need one. Hand sanitizing stations will also be set up, with a staff member helping to direct patron traffic to maintain social distance needs. Faxing, copying and printing services will also be available with computer use. Patrons will have timed sessions, ranging from 15 to 60 minutes, with a 60 minutes maximum limit per day. Computers and other surfaces will be sanitized between each patron.

Placher said the library’s decisions have been made with guidance from the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project, which is a research project conducted by Online Computer Library Center, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle to provide science-based information about how materials can be handled to limit COVID-19 exposure to staff and visitors of archives, libraries, and museums.

The extensive testing done by the project helped libraries nationwide determine how long the virus survived on materials such as books, DVD cases, board games and more. Those results showed libraries how long items must be quarantined between patrons before they could be checked out again.

Placher said that the limited-opening will be a testing ground, and that they will re-evaluate the COVID numbers and situation in the coming weeks to determine when the library can beginning allowing patrons to browse the books once again. Like computer use, browsing would also come with a time limit, Placher added.

“As the numbers go down, it makes us very hopeful and very excited about the future and the things we can begin doing again.” She explained. “Our main goal has been to keep everyone safe so that we don’t have to take services away. We want to approach opening in a practical way and in steps to ensure that our staff can adapt while continuing to maintain everyone’s safety.”

Services such as curbside pickup will still be available, as well as all other online services. For more information about the library’s phased opening, call 701-774-8805, visit www.willistonndlibrary.com or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/willistoncommunitylibrary.

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