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The Scarlet & Black

Drake Community Library halts reopening amid surge in COVID cases

Drake Community Library will be locking its door starting Oct. 9. By Andrew Tucker

Drake Community Library is returning to a curbside pickup model in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Poweshiek county. The decision, effective Oct. 9, comes less than two months after the library officially reopened for in-person services after August’s derecho. 

According to Grinnell College’s COVID-19 dashboard, Poweshiek County has averaged between six and eight new positive cases everyday for the last week. When the library reopened in mid-August, Poweshiek county was averaging less than one new case per day.  In the past two weeks, around 13% of tests have returned positive. That number remained below 10% for the entire summer and throughout early September. 

It was after looking at these metrics that Marilyn Kennett, the library’s director, decided that it was no longer safe to remain open. 

“It wasn’t like the number [of customers was] overwhelming the library or anything,” said Kennett, “it was just plain prudence…. That over abundance of caution.” She continued, “The main thing is I’ve got to keep staff well, or else we won’t have any services.”

As of now, no one at Drake Community Library has tested positive for COVID-19. However, as cases continue to rise in Grinnell and across Iowa, Kennet, the library board, and town government agreed that the safest option was shutting their doors to the general public.

The main thing is I’ve got to keep staff well, or else we won’t have any services. – Marilyn Kennett

The library will now function similarly to how it did at the start of the pandemic. Curbside pickup will be available for those who still want to check-out books, and two stations will remain open to provide computer and internet access to those who make appointments. Additionally, gatherings of up to 20 people deemed essential will be allowed to use the library as a meeting space, provided there is social distancing and those in attendance wear masks. 

On Monday, Oct.19, Farm to Table, a Grinnell-based organization that connects shoppers with local farmers, will be using the library to distribute food. Farm to Table staff will work inside the library to deliver food to customers waiting outside using a curbside pickup model, similar to how one would pick up a library book.

Virtual programming for children, such as the library’s weekly “story times” held over Zoom, will continue unaffected.

Although this wasn’t what Drake Community Library had in mind when it began phase two of its reopening program back in August, Kennett thinks that limiting contact is still the right thing to do as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down.

“It’s just plain smart to pull back at this point in time,” she said.

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