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Libraries reopen with COVID-19 protocols in place

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 1:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A handful of Omaha Public Library branches opened their doors to the public once again this week. They’ve been closed since March because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Five branches of the Omaha Public Library welcomed people back Monday, including the Milton R. Abrahams branch at 90th and Fort.

“When we opened the doors, even under the masks we could see the smiles," said Emily Getzschman, the market manager for the Omaha Public Library. "People were saying things like ‘thank goodness’ and ‘we’re just so happy to be back.’”

City budget concerns kept the library closed longer than other businesses in town, and during that time about 2/3 of the staff were furloughed.

Then in late August, it was announced that millions of dollars in CARES Act funding had been approved, and that meant libraries would soon be able to reopen.

Now that they are, things look a little different.

Masks are required inside, plexiglass dividers have been added to service points, and furniture has been spaced out or removed.

The programming the library typically does in person -- like book clubs, storytime, and author visits - have gone virtual and will stay that way for the rest of the year.

Still, Getzschman says it’s nice to have people back, and they seem happy to be back.

“They like being in spaces that are outside of their home but spaces with their fellow community members. So whether it’s interaction with our librarians or with each other, that’s what people have been wanting and are eager to get back to.”

For people who don’t want to go inside, curbside pickup is still an option.

Three more Omaha Public Library branches will open next week, and four more will open again sometime in the future.

For more information about locations, virtual programming, and safety protocols, you can visit the Omaha Public Library website.

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