Beginning in June, the Main Public Library will add Sunday hours and the Robert Crown branch library will be open Thursdays, as library officials continue to phase in services with the area’s recovery from COVID-19.

At the May 19 Library Board meeting, Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons said that officials have announced to staff and library employees union the plan to introduce additional hours.

At the April 21 Library Board meeting, some Library Board members had called for a roadmap on how Library officials had planned to reintroduce service.

Evanston library officials had closed all buildings due to the pandemic last March.
In October of last year, both the main public library at 1703 Orrington Ave., and Robert Crown at Main Street and Dodge Avenue were reopened for one hour use with strict safety protocols and a ceiling on the number of people in the buildings at one time — 100 at the main library and 50 at Crown.

At the time, some Library staff members as well as AFSCME, the union representing employees, had raised concerns about libraries continuing to remain open with other communities closing their facilities with a surge in COVID-19.

Ms. Danczak Lyons told board members at their May 19 meeting that Library officials will be continue to require everyone to wear masks, wash hands, and practice social distancing in visits to the buildings.

“And we will continue to check temperatures as people enter,” she said, “just to continue to keep everyone safe and secure and comfortable.

“ We do not know who has been vaccinated and who has not,” she said. “And nor are we planning to challenge people at the doorway saying, you know, ‘Show us your vaccination passport.’ We’re just trying to continue with what’s been working.”

She added, “We have been fortunate at the Evanston Public Library, we have not had any outbreaks. We have not been a source of contagion, staff to staff and/or patrons to staff. We have not had that.”

“And so what we’re doing is working … and part of what’s been a mainstay of this strategy is to maintain a certain level of people, staff and patrons in the building. And with us in the bridge phase now we’re going to be extending and bringing that level up a little bit.”

Under the change, the Main Library will add Sunday hours (from noon to 6 p.m.) resulting in service seven days per week, beginning June 6, officials said.

The Robert Crown branch library will add Thursday service beginning on June 3.
“At some point, we’re going to be opening fully in the buildings  – we are going to be expanding outwards again,” Ms. Danczak Lyons said.

Library officials are aligning those moves with fall, she said, “when the kids go back to school when our hundreds of activities outside the libraries over the summer conclude.”

Earlier in the meeting, Librarians Heather Norborg and Jill Skwerski shared some of the features planned for the Library’s Summer Engagement program.
This summer, Ms. Norborg told trustees, “The Evanston Public Library is going to the great outdoors.”

 “EPL staff across all of our public service departments will bring the library outside to parks events, the Robert Crown reading garden, and other outdoor venues over 100 times this summer.”

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Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.