La Crosse Library Board mulls adding hours in first quarter in quest for pre-COVID services

La Crosse Public Library showing documentary ‘Imprisoning a Generation’ on Wednesday

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The main La Crosse Public Library would reopen fully, with 12 hours added to its pandemic-shortened schedule, under a proposal the Library Board discussed Monday.
The proposed hours, which the board will vote on at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday for the first quarter of 2021, beginning Jan. 4, instead of being closed on Wednesday and shorter hours on Saturday, the current timetable.
Library Director Shanneon Grant noted that the library had scaled back hours and services at the main library — partly because of budgetary furloughs and partly as COVID-19 precautions. The North and South branches are closed altogether, and will remain so.
“We’re looking forward to 2021 and bringing some of those hours back,” Grant told board members during their virtual meeting.
The proposed schedule, to be effective for the first quarter of 2021, would increase hours from 36 a week to 48 and allow computer access when open.
Instead of curbside service or ordering resources online and picking them up at the desk, patrons would be able to enter the library and pick out their selections. A new system also will let library staffers track the number of patrons in the building in real time, Grant said.
“We feel this would offer consistency for patrons and sustainable service” even if some staffers were not able to work because of COVID-19 or family duties while their children are home for virtual school learning, she said.
“We don’t feel these hours will be permanent,” said Grant, adding that the expansion is a step in the right direction — to be expanded later, as the COVID risk eases.
La Crosse City Council member Gary Padesky, who also is a Library Board member, lauded the consistency of the open hours.
“Obviously, we’re not ready for opening the branches yet, and that saddens me,” but the closures are understandable, Padesky said.
Grant contrasted the proposed plan with that of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire, which had shifted to only curbside service but recently suspended all services temporarily because of a coronavirus outbreak.
In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in La Crosse, the Library Board probably will extend Grant’s authority to curtail hours and services on an emergency basis, as it has done through Dec. 31.
For example, Grant said, the second floor would be closed to the public, although patrons still could come in to pick up selections.
“Curbside is labor intensive,” while the library’s protocols for masks, with plexiglass separating staffers from patrons, ensure safety if it had to scale back, she said.
The board also tentatively approved the following holidays when the library would be closed in 2021, also to be finalized next week.
• New Year’s Day, Jan. 1
• Easter, April 4
• Memorial Day, May 29-31
• Independence Day, July 4 and 5
• Labor Day, Sept. 4-6
• Thanksgiving, Nov. 25
• Christmas, Dec. 24-27
New Year’s, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1-3, 2022.