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Lompoc, Santa Ynez Valley libraries await green light for reopening
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‘The library is still here’

Lompoc, Santa Ynez Valley libraries await green light for reopening

Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley library staff are eagerly awaiting a reopening date as statewide COVID-19 vaccination rates climb and restrictions loosen. 

Although there is no firm date yet, library director Sarah Bleyl believes they will be welcoming patrons sooner than later. 

"I feel like we're ready," Bleyl said. "But, I want us all to be safe. If we need to take baby steps, we will."

In the meantime, Solvang, Buellton and main Lompoc library branches continue to offer online programming, book holds and sidewalk pickup service for those who order materials in advance.   

Before a full reopening, according to Bleyl, protective plexiglass shields must be installed inside the Lompoc and Vandenberg Village branches to help reduce the spread of contagious, airborne germs in high-traffic areas, especially at countertops.

"We've been working with the facilities and purchasing departments to get them installed," said Bleyl, noting that the Vandenberg Village branch will require additional approvals to reopen due to its location within county jurisdiction.

Carey McKinnon, branch supervisor of the Solvang Library, said staff members are anxious to reopen but remain committed to safety. 

"Believe me, when [an opening] is imminent, we'll let you know," McKinnon said.

Similar to Lompoc, Santa Ynez Valley and Goleta Valley libraries are expecting to roll out a modified reopening plan when the time comes.

Bleyl said safety protocols will include limiting occupant capacity for those who are checking out materials and using the computers and copy machines. Additionally, mask wearing will be required and inside seating will be removed, she said. 

Allison Gray, director of Goleta and Santa Ynez Valley libraries, said the library system also plans to take on a phased approach informed by Public Health safety protocols to ensure staff and member safety. 

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Patrons now can make "a brief, purpose-driven appointment" to check out library materials at the Lompoc Library's main branch.

"We want all staff to get vaccinated and are waiting to see if there is another rise in cases in the county," Gray said.

Since their March 2020 closure, both library systems have reported an uptick in the borrowing of digital materials including books, CDs and DVDs as opposed to physical books. 

The "use of virtual items has greatly increased," while the rate of paper items being checked out has fallen, Gray said. 

Specifically, the Lompoc branches together report a borrowing rate of 100,000 items over the last year, according to Bleyl, with 42,000 physical books checked out and 58,000 digital items used.

Although overall borrowing is down compared to previous years, Bleyl said she is not concerned given that the total also represents an increase in digital borrowing as compared to years prior. 

"That's still books they are reading, music they are listening to and movies they're watching," she said.

The Lompoc Library system also had the opportunity to "beef up" their collection of digital materials over the last year thanks to grants and donations that helped boost borrowing rates, Bleyl said.

"We're definitely on track to higher use than in prior years," she noted, referring to the bump from digital materials.

While a visit to the library may not look the same, Bleyl said staff is doing all it can to continue engaging minds through pickup services and online educational programming. 

"The library is still here," Bleyl said. "Though we're not open, we're still helping as many people as we can."

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record. 


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