• Beth Roberts

Shelf Talk 6: Soft Open

Two months. Life has changed in the last two months. Two months of staying home, wearing masks, disinfecting surfaces, washing hands, experiencing food and supply shortages. Two months of listening to experts real and imagined give hard advice and warn of dire consequences. We have missed birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, and worship services. Businesses have closed; thousands of people have lost jobs. Thousands more have lost their lives. All in two months.


In the midst of a global pandemic unrivaled in a hundred years, one phrase has risen to the top: social distancing. We understand social distancing to mean staying apart from social situations, from most of the society in which we live. We need to stay apart while we wait: for effective treatment, for a vaccine, for herd immunity, for firm leadership. We may have been physically apart, but our distancing has been social. Two months apart has taught us the value of being together. Social distancing has reminded us that we are social beings, born to be part of a community. We feel a driving need to go back to what we were, but we also remember that this pandemic has changed us. Now we know in fact what used to be theory: the choices we make affect our neighbors. The actions we take (or don’t take) keep our community healthy.


The Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) recognizes this shift to a new understanding of normal. As we begin to take the first tentative steps to restarting our economy, the MCLS wants to serve Mississippi County communities as safely as we can. “Libraries are the community’s living room,” says MCLS Director Lowell Walters. “There are citizens who need the services and resources we provide now, more than ever.” In addition to books and databases, MCLS branches provide free computer and internet access, inexpensive copying and printing services, and fax services. Customers use these resources to print resumes, complete job applications, access business email, file taxes, and send legal correspondence. In our current environment, these services are all the more important. The Mississippi County Library System has a responsibility to reopen, but to reopen responsibly.


On May 18th, MCLS will open three of its six branches: Blytheville, Manila, and Osceola. This will be a soft reopening, with limited hours and safety precautions in place. The following library hours and usage policies will be in place until further notice:

  • · Blytheville Public Library

  • o Monday: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm

  • o Tuesday to Friday: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

  • o Sunday: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

  • · Manila Public Library

  • o Monday: 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm

  • o Wednesday: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

  • o Saturday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

  • · Osceola Public Library

  • o Monday: 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm

  • o Tuesday to Friday: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm

  • o Saturday: 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Staff will wear masks at all times, and will enforce occupancy limits and six feet of separation between customers (family groups may remain together). Customers are encouraged to wear masks and conduct their business while in the library quickly and safely. Anyone who wishes to check out books is encouraged to browse the online catalog at bit.ly/MCLSearch so they can make more efficient choices when they arrive.


Curbside checkout is still available at Blytheville, Manila, and Osceola for customers who do not feel comfortable entering the building. Feel free to call ahead and request books!

Returned books will be placed in a three-day quarantine before they are treated with a disinfectant and returned to the shelves. MCLS staff will regularly clean work surfaces, but it is not possible to fully disinfect all books between customers, so those who wish to browse the shelves should do so with this in mind.


Children are always welcome in the library, but they must be closely supervised by an adult. For their own safety, and that of our more vulnerable customers, unattended children will be asked to leave the library premises. MCLS also reserves the right to refuse service to anyone exhibiting COVID19-like symptoms.


Computer, internet, printing, copying, and faxing services will all be available during operating hours. Computer stations will be spaced six feet apart, and marks on the floor will clearly indicate appropriate spacing for waiting at the printer or service desk. Computer time will be limited to thirty (30) minutes for all non-business use, and no gaming will be permitted until resumption of regular hours.


Staff will still be available to help with computer-related questions, but will remain six feet away and will not operate the mouse or the keyboard for customers. Staff will disinfect computer workstations after each customer has left. Please be patient with these changes: staff are putting your health first!


MCLS does not plan to resume in-person programming nor to reopen meeting rooms for community groups for the foreseeable future. Instead, we are busy developing quality, robust virtual programming.


Stay tuned for announcements about an innovative Summer Reading program, scheduled to begin June 15th. Follow Mississippi County Library System on Facebook and Instagram for weekly Tell Me a Story story times, Building Creativity activities, QuaranSTEAM experiments, book reviews, and more! Programs, announcements, online catalog, curated boredom buster lists, opening information, and more is available at www.mclibrary.net


Do you have a suggestion for ways the MCLS can better serve our community? Would you like to volunteer to help us distance socially? Reach out and let us know! As always, I’m available for questions and assistance; you can reach me at broberts@mclibrary.net.

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