Camas Public Library to reopen building after yearlong closure

After closing its building to the public at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the library plans to reopen with limited indoor capacity and plenty of COVID-19 precautions in place on Monday, March 15

Sanitizing stations sit inside the Camas Public Library on Friday, March 5, 2021. Library staff are preparing to reopen limited indoor services on March 15, 2021, after a nearly yearlong closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Stickers on the floor of the Camas Public Library point out physical-distancing rules on Friday, March 5, 2021. The library is set to reopen its indoor services on March 15, 2021, after a nearly yearlong closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Camas Public Library Director Connie Urquhart demonstrates the library's no-touch book return on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A sign at the Camas Public Library asks patrons to clean their computers after using, on Friday, March 5, 2021. The library will reopen indoor services on March 15, 2021, after a yearlong closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

The children's room inside the Camas Public Library is transformed into a "green room" on Friday, March 5, 2021. Library staff are using the room to create online videos, including a new "Camas road trips" feature that will showcase local sites normally included in school field trips during non-pandemic school years. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Pickup services are available at the Northeast Fourth Avenue entrance of the Camas Public Library on Friday, March 5, 2021. Once the library reopens its indoor services on March 15, 2021, the pickup services will switch to the library's one-way exit on Northeast Fifth Avenue. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A box seen outside the Camas Public Library on Friday, March 5, 2021, asks community members to weigh in on the theme for the library's second annual Read for Change program. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

After a nearly one-year closure, the Camas Public Library is set to open its doors to the public again on Monday, March 15.

The library will offer limited indoor services at 25-percent capacity from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We’re excited to reopen,” said library director Connie Urquhart, adding that, even though the library has not been able to offer indoor services for the past year, library staff have still found innovative ways to reach patrons and serve the community during the lengthy closure.

“We’re all about serving the community and we’ve found ways to do that even when the library was closed,” Urquhart said.

Over the past year, the library has offered everything from curbside pickup services and ebooks to podcasts, online reading groups and — early in the pandemic, when everyone was still getting used to the idea of staying home and avoiding crowds — a call center for community members who needed to find COVID-related resources, have their medicine or groceries delivered or just chat with a friendly volunteer to help break up the isolation.

Patrons have shown gratitude for the library’s variety of services during the pandemic, Urquhart said, and library staff now look forward to welcoming a limited number of community members back inside the library while continuing many of the online and community based services that have popped up during the shutdown.

The closure gave library staff a chance to reimagine how they might serve the community, Urquhart said.

For instance, in the room that once held in-person children’s reading groups, staff have set up a sort of green room to record their new, online “library road trip” series of videos highlighting local attractions normally visited by school children on field trips during non-pandemic years.

Even the library’s upstairs art gallery, the nonprofit Second Story Gallery, which used to host monthly art exhibits and openings, will undergo a post-pandemic “reboot,” Urquhart said, with library leaders engaging community members and artists who are interested in local art and in helping shape the future of the library gallery.

Library missed chance to open in fall after flooding

The reopening announcement is sure to please library fans who had hoped they might get to browse the downtown library’s bookshelves again in the fall, when local COVID rates dropped and the governor allowed libraries in Phase 2 counties to reopen with 25 percent capacity.

Unfortunately, while other libraries in the region reopened in early October 2020, the Camas library was still clearing up from a mid-September storm that flooded downtown Camas, pouring nearly 6 inches of water into the library’s basement and causing significant damage to materials being saved for the library’s annual book sale fundraiser.

“We will be accepting donations (for the annual sale),” Urquhart noted, saying those donations will be kept on the library’s second floor, which remains closed to the public.

Because they missed the window of opportunity in October to reopen before a COVID surge caused another round of shutdowns in the winter, the March 15 reopening is a dry run for the library and its staff, who have been working remotely and inside an empty building since the governor’s first shutdowns in March 2020.

Library leaders have established a range of safety protocols to keep patrons and staff safe from the virus, which has infected more than 18,500 and killed 228 Clark County residents — and is still being transmitted at a rate of 103 new cases per 100,000 residents every two weeks.

Some of those safety protocols include:

  • Masks required: Patrons over the age of 4 years, and staff, must wear face coverings over their mouths and noses while inside the library
  • One-way entrance and exits: There will be one entrance (on Northeast Fourth Avenue) and one exit (on Northeast Fifth Avenue).
  • Capacity counter: An electronic counter will tell people waiting to enter the library if the building is nearing or at capacity, with a red light for “wait” and a green light for “enter.”
  • Physical distancing: Patrons and staff will distance at least 6 feet.
  • Quarantined materials: Returned books and other library materials will be quarantined for 24 hours before being handled by library staff.
  • No-touch systems: Many of the library’s systems, including the book return and checkout, are now “no touch” with patrons able to return and check out materials without coming into contact with a staff member.
  • Distanced computers: The Camas library will be one of the only libraries in the region to offer a bank of public computers when it reopens on March 15. There are about half as many computers available, to maintain a 6-foot distance between the terminals and staff will be able to assist patrons remotely.
  • Shorter visits: The library building can accommodate 35 people under the 25-percent capacity rule, including staff members. Patrons are asked to keep visits brief.
  • Contactless pickups still available: The library’s curbside and contactless pickup services will still be offered, but will be available at the exit on Northeast Fifth Avenue to avoid crowds at the entrance on Fourth Avenue.

Library asks public to help decide Read for Change theme

When the Camas library launched its first-ever Read for Change community reading initiative in the summer of 2020, Urquhart said library staff were seeking new ways to connect with patrons and Camas residents during the pandemic.

“We had been missing our community and felt the need to do something to reach out to our community, to connect with them in a meaningful way. So we thought, ‘Why not have something we can do every year? A community reading program based around some sort of change in today’s world.”

Several big issues stood out: climate change, transgender rights and poverty in America, Urquhart said, but one theme, racial equity, was more urgent.

The inaugural “Read for Change” initiative featured keynote speakers, documentary screenings, discussion groups, book giveaways and a lending library filled with books about racial equity.

To get everyone on the same page, the Friends and Foundation of the Camas Library purchased copies of Ibram X Kendi’s books, “How to be an Antiracist” and “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” and donated them to the community for the Read for Change program.

Urquhart said the first Read for Change was a hit with the community.

Now, library staff are seeking input on the second annual Read for Change theme.

Camas community members who have suggestions for the 2021 Read for Change theme can list their ideas on the library’s online survey or drop a note in the “Read for Change” box located outside the library on Northeast Fourth Avenue.

Library staff will compile the top suggestions and give the community another chance to narrow the options.

Urqhart said the library will take general suggestions through March and go back to the community in April with the top four ideas. A winning theme will be announced in May.

So far, Urquhart said, ideas for the 2021 theme have included everything from climate change and gender equality to another year dedicated to racial inequities.

This year, she added, library staff hope their Read for Change program will reach a broader swath of Camas community members.

To weigh in on this year’s Read for Change theme or learn more about the program visit camaslibrary.org.

The library is located at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas.

For more information, visit camaslibrary.org, call 360-834-4692 or email library@cityofcamas.us.