Problem areas in regards to Covid-19

First, I would like to say I appreciate the changes the library is implementing to combat the spread of Covid-19 I am aware that these decisions were not made lightly, nor is implementing them easy. I also appreciate the transparency in having these discussions. As many of you are aware, I have been out of commission since November 7th after contracting Covid-19. November 25th was my first day back to work and while I’m not at 100% and won’t be for a while it’s good to be able to somewhat function and not be confined to bed. Since the pandemic started, I have followed the mandates in social isolation, washing hands, and wearing a mask. I take these measures to what some may call the extreme, but as a high-risk individual (asthma), it is a matter of course. My social life outside of work is non-existent. After work I do not leave my home except to go grocery shopping and even then, I use the curbside-pickup that is widely available.

I began to exhibit symptoms on 11/4/2020 and my wife began showing symptoms two days later. At first, I didn’t think much of it other than a possible head cold or allergies but as the days wore on my symptoms began to grow from mild to moderate. On 11/07/2020 my wife and I got tested along with another member of our household. My wife and I tested positive while the other member of the household tested negative.

I appreciate the regulations and rules that we enforce within the library. As a member of the custodial department, I see all aspects of our establishment’s daily routine as I go about my tasks in disinfecting and cleaning the public areas. This has allowed me to witness some troubling issues. I have seen firsthand patrons’ disregard for the safety protocols, particularly mask wearing, especially while I am in the men’s restrooms cleaning up. I have asked many patrons to cover up when they come out of stalls without a mask or with their nose sticking out. The main problem is that there is no way to enforce mask wearing while in the restrooms without breaching privacy.

With only two public restrooms open, there are more patrons confined to a small, enclosed space without much air ventilation. While the masks do offer some protection, it does not fully eliminate the risk of contracting Covid-19, especially when even one individual either does not wear or properly don a mask. Therefore, because of my line of work, I am playing a game of Russian Roulette every time I or my co-workers enter the restrooms. Even with all the proper precautions being taken and the likelihood of being infected minimized, I spend far more time than the allotted daily 15-minute limit in a highly enclosed area with patrons that cough and do not wear masks. These first-hand experiences do not include the times I am not inside the restroom. I cannot say that the women’s restrooms are any different considering I do my cleaning inside when it is empty. So, it becomes a question of not if but how many patrons disregard the rules of wearing masks, and for how long they do so in the bathrooms. Let’s say hypothetically, and I’m being extremely generous here, that even if I were wearing a mask that offered 99% protection, that 1% percent risk of exposure grows each time I enter the restrooms to disinfect and clean. When I do my daily cleaning routine, I am entering ten restrooms per round, when including the upper and lower floors, multiple times a day. My question then becomes, how can we adequately lower the risk of transmission in such high traffic and essential areas?

I know that in the team rooms we have air purifiers but that poses a problem when there’s water and the potential of patrons damaging the equipment. It is frustrating to remind patrons to mask up only to be scoffed at and belittled before they begrudgingly comply. I feel that they have no fear of having any actual consequences for their lack of respect to the rules set by the library and, more importantly, our safety. Would there be a better way to enforce precautions and mete out some form of deterrent for such behavior? This is also a problem I have noticed with the construction crew early in the morning-I have caught them numerous times either not wearing a mask while in the elevator, or having their noses uncovered. This is deeply concerning considering the main staff elevator is quite the enclosed space and there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable air circulation. It would just take one cough or sneeze to potentially infect a greater portion of the library. I have seen them not wearing their masks in construction areas as well. An accident here and there I understand but by now they should know that wearing masks and doing so properly is a requirement. We understand the inconveniences and discomfort in wearing a mask but nonetheless we do so. We follow these rules for the sake of our coworkers, families, and of course because it’s the rules of the library.

Another problem I am seeing is that patrons seem to not acknowledge the 6-foot social distancing. An example I will use just happened yesterday, in which I had to assist a Spanish speaker in preparing some documents. I spent between 10 to 15 minutes assisting him and then finding books for him with the assistance of a coworker in Media Center. While he did follow protocol in terms of wearing a mask, it was difficult to help him if we were maintaining the proper 6-foot distance, and so how can I be stern without being downright rude? I have seen so many of my coworkers who work in the public area struggle with this issue as well. I have seen in customer service patrons who bypass the plastic barriers by simply going to the side of the desk. Some patrons once asked to step away will comply, but it comes back to the repeated exposure with everyone throughout the day. Numerous times I have seen my fellow coworkers professionally remind them to follow the rules but in doing so each interaction is another roll of the die. When I open the main doors to the library, I have seen many patrons who either by mistake or willful ignorance touch either a mask or gloves before sanitizing their hands. In doing so they have potentially contaminated the batch of masks and gloves, therefore exacerbating the spread of not just Covid-19 but other diseases. There have been a few occasions in which I have had to throw away a whole box of masks or gloves after seeing this. I am a proponent of washing your hands after using the restrooms. I am aware that we do not require patrons to wash their hands, but I remind them regardless, especially after seeing them come out of the stalls and begin to leave. Many times, I have seen them right afterwards go to the Reference Room or the Atrium Center and touch our supplies of masks and gloves without even disinfecting their hands. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is, because it’s not just the patrons who mask up or don gloves but also our employees.

We cannot always be there to ensure patrons are following the rules and it just takes one infected individual to contaminate the whole supply and infect unwitting individuals who are following the rules. This is a significant issue if we are to do our part in curbing this pandemic. We cannot discount the risk of the virus spreading through physical touch, despite our constant efforts to keep the spread of the virus at a minimum. How can we minimize these issues? Because of my own experience with Covid-19 I do not wish this virus to anyone else. While I am fortunate to have had moderate symptoms that did not become severe, how many others will have such luck?

52 thoughts on “Problem areas in regards to Covid-19

  1. Scott Brackey on said:

    Thank you, David, for sharing your experiences and concerns with everyone. You are far from alone in what you’ve witnessed and feared, but are uniquely qualified to speak on this matter because of your job duties and unfortunate Covid contraction. Your coworkers admire your honesty and mettle. We are glad to call you a friend and colleague.

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      We’re all in this situation together. So a potential problem affect us all. I know we’re all trying to the best we can in these trying times.

  2. Dawn Stone on said:

    Hi David,
    I have been thinking about all of these concerns since before we returned to the library in May. First of all, I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. Since returning to work in May, I have seen the work the Facilities staff do as you risking your lives to save mine. That is literally the case. And you have paid the price. So, I want you and every member of your team to know the incredible amount of gratitude I have for the work you do. I owe everything to you.

    I have been wondering for a while now why the library is pushing to be OPEN OPEN OPEN. As cases in the community have skyrocketed, there has been tremendous resistance to limiting in-person services, and what and how people use the library. We were promised in those early Zoom meetings that the library’s decisions would be based on the state of cases in the community and the community scorecard. It seems that doesn’t matter anymore. It is as bad as it could possibly be, and the building is still open to the public.

    I think we have the most amazing staff any workplace could even dream of. I hope this post can be a place to brainstorm as a whole organization, and think outside the box on how to give amazing service without putting staff, and ultimately, our customers, at risk.

    I have seen many of those same behaviors on the dock coming and going from the building. I have seen it with staff (which I find incredibly shocking still) in the hallways in the basement, as well as in the non-public ladies rooms. I too have had multiple run ins with the contractors who claim they have been given permission buy our leadership not to wear masks in their work spaces. The problem is the whole library is their workspace. They will wear their masks and gators under their nose when walking through the building, just in case someone tells them to pull them up. But, recently after many encounters telling at least 15 different contractors they “need to wear their mask covering their nose and mouth at all times during their visit”, they told me they were told they didn’t have to, and then told me I better stay away from them then. So, even though this is a clear issue. And I am likely not the only person who has reported this. These contractors who are boldly non-compliant are still being allowed to work in the library. There are thousands of contractors out of work right now. I don’t understand why there hasn’t been an attempt to replace these non-compliant craftsman with skilled workers who would be grateful to mask up just to have a job.

    As for staff, many times it is a staff member going along with a contactor not wearing their mask while working directly with them, or even joining them by pulling their own mask down. There have been very few instances where I approached a staff member and they didn’t just outright ignore me on the first and second attempts to get their attention. Usually, I don’t get acknowledged until they see that I’m not going to go away until they comply.

    My biggest concern isn’t what these folks do in the building. If they are willing to take these kinds of risks inside the library where wearing a mask is required, what kinds of risks are they taking when they aren’t at the library? There are no consequences to non-compliance out in the community.

    As for the elevators, your concerns are exactly why I won’t use the elevators after 8:30 AM. I just don’t do it. I also glove up if I have to touch a door handle, or basically anything that isn’t at my desk. I have a bad back, But, I will not touch railings in the stairwell. I can’t imagine that even on your best days you all hae time to clean every single door handle and the railings in the halls. Knowing what you are up against, we have to also do our best to keep ourselves safe.

    I believe we have another year of this. With the massive amount of non-compliance going on in the community, I believe there will be many who will refuse to get vaccinated. I also believe those people will say they have been and refuse to wear a mask. I am hoping as the vaccine becomes available to all public, we have a plan for what to say to these folks. The truth is, we will all need to mask until the United States isn’t part of the Pandemic. We are lucky only two people have had to go through this at the library. But, I suspect that is going to change in the coming week or two.

    As for what we can do to make the library safer for ALL staff and our community, here are a few ideas.

    1. We corden off the entrance to the bathrooms, and require the use of hand sanitizer both before entering the bathroom and exiting. Large signage that reads Hand sanitizer required before and after entering the bathroom”.

    2. Air purifiers required in all restrooms in the library. Pubic and non-public.

    3. Since there are two public restrooms. Public should be redirected to the other restroom and restroom must be void of people BEFORE said staff member cleans it. This would do two things. It would allow both male and female facilities staff to clean either restroom, thus spreading out the risk. It could also be an opportunity for two or three facilities staff to work together quickly to get that bathroom clean fast, thus reducing the amount of time spent being exposed. With the door open, an air purifier, and a team doing the job, it would be safer and faster.

    4. Limit the bathroom use to emergencies only. Maybe signage that says. “For your safety, bathroom use is limited to EMERGENCIES ONLY”. Still, I believe having a cordened barier with the hand sanitizer requirement, Large signs in the bathroom saying “Hand washing REQUIRED 20 seconds” and Mask wearig REQUIRED at ALL TIMES, could be a start. I know many people will go elsewhere to use a restroom if they have to interrupt their routine at all. I have always been that person that will drive another five minutes if I think the first restroom available off the highway requires asking for a key.

    5. And this would be my preference and what I think would be the most prudent thing we can do, in addition to the above. Limit visits inside the library to 30 minutes. No team rooms. No unsupervised touching of materials, etc.

    6. Close the building to the public, and allot staff normally working with the public to serve the public from inside the library. If we are all working, but the library building is closed, there must be some incredible ways we can make it all happen for the vast majority of people we serve. I believe our staff has the brilliance and creativity to innovate a workable plan AND overcome the massive logistical challenges of it.

    If anyone has made it to the bottom of my response, THANK YOU! Let’s see how many creative ideas we can come up with, no matter how far fetched. Let’s make a new commitment to keeping our own and our community safe. We must not let our guard down. I know we have a lot on our plates, and lots of stressful, awkward conversations with friends and families. But, let’s do this! Let’s come up with solutions that will save lives. If I had gotten covid instread of David, I might not have survived. There are others like me who work here, too. Please, for the safety of all of us, report who you see not complying. I have been reporting to Thad. I don’t know what happens beyond that. But, he has said he wants me to do that, so I do. But, I always try to get people to do the right thing. The video Jesse posted about masking is key for all staff. If you haven’t watched it yet, please make time to. Let’s not wait for a tragedy to happen before we start thinking of others safety before our own inconveniences. Change is a real pain and inconvenience. But, if we remember why we are making these sacrifices, it will all be worth it.

    • Natalie Allen on said:

      Dawn, I just want to say I am surprised by the response you have gotten from the construction guys. whenever I remind them to wear their masks, they have been compliant and happy. I have emailed john about how they are not wearing masks because of how constant it is and how I have seen maintenance staff walking with the construction guys when they weren’t wearing a mask. my suggestion is if we could have signage that says if you are positive for COVID or have any of the symptoms, to not come here as we currently have both kinds of people here. people come here after testing positive to wait for rides and people who don’t have cell phones who have the symptoms come here. I don’t know how realistic that is as diverse as the symptoms for COVID are.

      • David Gonzalez on said:

        If I remember correctly the construction people have to fill out the same Covid-19 questionnaire that we do, when they enter at the docks. If they do so or not that’s something that I don’t know.

        It’s troubling that patrons who enter the library with the knowledge that they are infected still do so. I understand waiting for rides and using the phones/computers to contact someone but that puts so many others at risk.

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      Thank you for the kind words Dawn!

      I have to say it is deeply troubling that the contractors are either lying about being exempt from wearing mask, or if somebody actually told them that it’s okay. It’s been said many times by email sent to all the staff that everyone inside the library is required to wear a mask, and to wear it properly. There is no exception.
      I have no qualms telling someone to wear a mask properly. It is expected to do so if they are to enter and be in the building.
      I like the idea of limiting the time patrons are allowed in. This shortened amount of time would then force them to actually focus on doing what they need to do, and using what services they actually required. The more time they have the more they will lollygag. So those that really need to use our services will use their time effectively and get the task done.

      One of the problems with adding barriers to the restroom is that most times patrons usually wait till the last minute in which they can’t hold it inside that they’ll have no qualm barging in, or possibly leaking it out in public. I have witnessed this numerous times in my years working here. We put the close sign up but it’s usually disregarded and rather than have to clean up bodily fluids in a public part we allow them to come in. While in the women’s restrooms if I’m in there I allow them in while I step outside.

      • Dawn Stone on said:

        I am not saying they can’t go in and use the restroom. If they HAVE waited until the very last moment, it IS an emergency. At that point anyone is going to do what they need to do. BUT, they will have seen the sign and will probably keep it in mind the next time they come in. I think allowing people to come hang out in the library, no matter what the reason, is irresponsible at this point. We are fostering the spread of the virus. We have staff that will do anything possible to find another way to take care of our customers and make sure they get exactly what they want. Our priority should be safety first for our staff and our customers, and service second. Our customers know we will go the distance for them and were very understanding when we weren’t letting people in the building. If we roll things back now, we will be able to do more things sooner.

    • Thad Hartman on said:

      Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. We will be responding to all of these, but I wanted to jump in and mention that we have never told the contractors that they didn’t need to wear masks. We have spoken with them regularly about wearing masks and will continue to do so. I heard of the comments related to this last week and reiterated to them that there were no exceptions for them and masks need to be worn all of the time. I’m sorry this continues to be an issue but we will continue to talk to them about this if they are not wearing masks.

      • Dawn Stone on said:

        Thad, I will let you know that yours was one of two names attached to the permission they said they had. Scarlett can fill you in on the details. Paul and John were present for the very end of the interaction as well. I did actually say to them, “Thad would never have said that.” Probably best for me to not make that assumption, but I thought it was a safe assumption.

  3. Lissa Staley on said:

    Here are some updated posters from the CDC that we could consider displaying instead of the ones we have posted from March.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/COVID19-social-distancing-cloth-face-coverings-poster.pdf

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention-H.pdf

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/stop-the-spread-of-germs-11×17-en.pdf

    I’d also like to increase education among staff and customers about the current prevention information from the CDC.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

    Specifically,
    “Know how it spreads
    COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, mainly by the following routes:
    Between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet).
    Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings or talks.
    Respiratory droplets cause infection when they are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes, such as those that line the inside of the nose and mouth.
    People who are infected but do not have symptoms can also spread the virus to others.
    Less common ways COVID-19 can spread
    Under certain circumstances (for example, when people are in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation), COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.
    COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.”

    We focus SO MUCH on cleaning surfaces every time someone touches them. I’d be interested in brainstorming or piloting some more ways to keep customers more than 6 feet away from each other and keep staff more than 6 feet away from each other and customers. And reimagining some services so that we can still provide them but from a safer distance. I’m intrigued by the Wichita Public Library advertising that they are offering copies/printing/fax from their Curbside services.

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      I do agree and the evidence shows that while surface spread isn’t the main way the virus gets around, there is still that risk of cross-contamination especially with the masks and gloves. Its often the people who don’t don masks in the restrooms that also don’t wash their hands. I have seen them touching or splashing their face(heck sometimes shaving their beards) with water while forgoing the soap. They touch their noses if they have an itch and don’t think much of it. There have even been times where they cough into their hands rather than their elbows, or wipe their snot away with their hand, which is only not disgustingly gross but a big problem, the individuals would just wipe their hands on their clothes, and afterwards they go ahead and grab a mask and occasionally fumble with the box in trying to separate the mask from the other ones.(Same with the gloves) With those cases I just chuck the box away and get a new one.
      So while it’s not as effectively spread compared to respiratory droplets, surfaces contact still involves a risk especially when someone puts on a contaminated mask because the virus particles are already there on the surface and it’s so close to their nose, and mouth.
      It just takes one infected person to quickly spread the virus especially if they are unaware.
      Maybe if we just offered masks at the front rather than different parts of the library, it may lower the risks? Because honestly I don’t see a reason as to why an individual would need another mask once they have inside.
      We still disinfect surfaces just to minimize the spread of Covid-19 as much as possible, because that’s our goal. Because even if it’s just a 1% chance of contamination with the amount of people that come in and don’t practice proper hygiene it will begin to stack up.
      So while we wash our hands and practice social distancing those who don’t will end up spreading it to the community and thus exacerbate the problem, by introducing more infected people who spread the virus with respiratory droplets.
      It is difficult to enforce the social distancing especially in the restrooms which are crucial in any buildings, and elevators which are key areas to get around in the library.

      So far as I’m aware we do not have any form of aerosol disinfectant that can kill Covid-19. I have asked Ivan about this at the start of the pandemic but will touch bases with him on this again.

      While we do try to catch these problems and nip ’em in the bud, I wonder about all the times when we don’t.

      I like the idea of offering copies/printing/fax services from curbside but that would leave employees at the whims of the elements. The sunroom is quite small as it is.

      • Elizabeth Paris on said:

        Having the masks available in other areas of the library has been very helpful in providing masks quickly to people who have had the paper masks strings break. This unfortunately is a common occurrence with the paper masks. Also, we are able to offer the paper masks to patrons who are struggling to keep their cloth face-coverings in place. I do agree with you about the problem of contamination of the paper mask boxes and the glove boxes by unwashed/un-sanitized hands.

        • Kimberly Sain on said:

          Yes, having the open boxes of masks available for people to touch seems like unnecessary risk especially during uncontrolled community spread. The boxes are small, the strings are entwined and people most likely have to touch more than the one mask they take. What if the rotunda greeter, with sanitized and gloved hands safely set out individual masks on the sanitized table for people to easily take? Put the other boxes of masks behind the staff desks at the various stations so only staff with clean hands and gloves can pass out?

          Regarding helping people fax and photocopy, sometimes it simply makes more sense to do it for the person vs. spending many minutes giving a tutorial to a loose-masked person who is struggling to figure out the technology.

          For me, the most difficult task now is enforcing social distancing. A woman raised her voice at me today in Media when I tried to explain our social distancing rule as she and her companion crowded around computer #1, encroaching on computer #2’s space. I have to remind myself to stay more than 6 ft. away from others as well.

          David, I’m so glad you’re better. Thank you for caring about your coworkers and the public and raising your concerns. We’re generally doing great, I think, but there’s room for improvement as we step up our game a bit to prepare for what is most likely going to be a rough December and January.

          • David Gonzalez on said:

            I like your idea!

            Maybe we could add another desk a foot or so behind the first one. The content of the first desk would be hand sanitizers followed by gloves. While on the second desk would strictly be masks all laid? The only downside is that we would be allowing patrons to step into the library even more before masking up and the potential issue of the mask flying off due to the outside weather.

            This next two months are going to be rough Dr. Fauci said to expect surge after surge, and with the way Kansas is going about things, I’m afraid that is going to be the case. I mean our hospitals are full already. The wait lines in clinics to be seen are just unbelievable.

        • David Gonzalez on said:

          You make an excellent point. I have had the mask string break on me a couple of time. So I understand why we need to have spares around the library zones.

    • Dawn Stone on said:

      It is amazing to me that people still think your mask protects YOU. It is also shocking how many think that if the tip of your nose is covered, you are protecting others. One thing I see constantly are people wearing their masks very low one their nose, and as they talk, the mask drops. Then they touch it to pull it back up to the tip. Then it falls again. They are constantly putting their hands on the outside of their mask, which is like putting their hands in a petri dish. And, and then they touch things like the handles of cleaners, carts, elevator buttons, etc. The importance of having a good seal has never been discussed. I think with so many folks choosing to wear a standard size paper mask, some education on how to get a good seal AND a comfortable fit would be very important. I think the paper masks aren’t comfortable for anyone. But, they can be incredibly effective, they are easy to breathe in, and they are not hot. I definitely would be choosing paper over fabric if I had found a fit that works for me. Because being able to change the mask a couple times a day, and throw away the old one would be convenient. But, I can’t get a behind the ear style to work on my face with a barbell upper ear piercing and glasses. Some people can’t get fabric masks to work, don’t want the investment or the hassle of washing. But, there needs to be education on both how to wear the mask and how to adjust or take off the mask and dispose of it.

  4. Hayley Swisher on said:

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, David. I also appreciate all of the measures currently being implemented to keep TSCPL employees safe. One suggestion that I have is to update our signage. While the signs that we currently have are great, I think that patrons have become somewhat desensitized to their content. Perhaps we could introduce signage in new colors or with different graphics/messages? (i.e. a visual of wearing a mask under your nose vs. over it/correctly) I’ve seen these at many businesses and I think that it’s a subtle yet effective way to get the message across. I know that we have mask signs already, but adding that extra visual of the ‘under the nose’ might help. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and concerns with us all!

    • Carrie Cummings on said:

      I agree that updated signs could have a positive impact regarding mask wearing as well as social distancing. Some signs stressing the 6 foot distance and what that looks like, something tangible or easy to visualize. We should both be able to stretch out our arms and still not touch fingers… keep a full size couch between you… or a dairy cow… or a hammerhead shark… or a twin bed…. Something memorable, maybe funny, that will stick in their head. And messages about social distancing should be at all stationary staff points as well as throughout the library. Just because we now have plexiglass up doesn’t mean social distancing isn’t necessary.

  5. Michelle Stottlemire on said:

    David – thank you for these well thought out reflections. Between your position in the library (which takes you to all service points and then some) and your personal experience with COVID-19 we all would be wise to pause and reflect ourselves.

    Your mention of the Team Rooms caught my attention, as it is a place of concern for me (since it’s part of my pod I am often assigned to that post 2-4 hours/day). Patrons often remove masks while in the room (which we monitor and ask them to replace) and talk very loudly/passionately while on calls/teleconferences. They are often in their rooms for the full two hours. Current procedures have staff immediately entering the room after the patron leaves to clean surfaces. Unfortunately, many patrons are turning off/down the air purifiers while in the room which means staff are repeatedly entering rooms with insufficient air exchange/replacement. With what we know about how the virus spreads in aerosol droplets this seems like a questionable practice. Perhaps following guidelines similar to those used for choir classes would make more sense – leave the room empty for half and hour to allow the air filter (if on) to do it’s job then enter and clean before the next patron can be assigned. It does reduce the overall amount of time the Team Rooms are available to the public but creates a safer environment meant for both staff and patrons.

    With community spread of the virus at such a high rate statistically speaking it’s not a question of IF any of the hundreds of patrons that come in to the library each day are infected but hie many are are infected. Steps we can take now to minimize staff and patron interactions and air-sharing seem paramount.

  6. Angie Reed on said:

    Great post, David! You’ve brought up many good points. I’m appreciative of the library being speedy in our initial response and doing more than is strictly required.

    That being said, I agree with the suggestions in the comments- people have grown blind to the same signs being displayed and are growing fatigued with following the mask rules. I think that updating the signs might trigger them to notice them again and I like the idea of giving visual cues that wearing masks under noses is unacceptable as well as visualizations of what six feet looks like. I think keeping it humorous will help them be easier to remember and be good for kids too.

    I have also heard the construction workers say that they’ve been told they don’t have to wear masks in their work areas and have asked about it with no official response. When reminding them they need to be wearing them in public areas I’ve had mixed responses- some are kind and immediately put them back on and others want to argue about it. I’ve also overheard them, in public areas, loudly stating their opinions about the masks being unnecessary and ineffective which is irritating because patrons can also hear them.

    Working in Greeter position for 2 hour sessions means that I’ve also witnessed patrons touching just about everything before using sanitizer or masking up and also wanting to loudly converse before masking up. People also tend to find corners out of our line of sight to try to covertly take their masks off- specifically in the back desks of the wings and in the nonfiction section of the Kids area as well as the homework center. I’m constantly impressed by how amazing all my coworkers are and at how hard we’re working to keep each other and the public safe, but there is only so much we can do when we have patrons purposefully taking their masks off in areas we can’t see and especially in the bathrooms where our amazing maintenance staff is extra susceptible to potential exposures.

    Love seeing all the brainstorming and idea sharing here!

  7. Lynn Shirley on said:

    There is one other thing I think should be done and that is to take the temperature of all patrons as they enter the building. I have heard people say they think they have COVID and are being tested or are exhibiting symptoms. If one time a person is non compliant for any period of time they have already have possibly infected others. I tell people at the desk all the time to pull their mask up over their nose, or they pull it down to speak. If we are open during a time of uncontrolled transmission we need to do all we can to protect both the public and the staff. I know there are also people who come in many times during the day. They leave and come back. Why can’t we have a firm time limit? You are in once for the day whether you use your full 4 hours or not.

    • Dawn Stone on said:

      I have formally asked about temperature checks in the past, since it is super easy to do. I was told that since a fever is only one of the symptoms, and not a defining symptom, it wouldn’t be practical to do either with the public or the staff.

  8. Natalie Moreland on said:

    David, thank you for opening this dialogue.
    I’ve seen our staff members valiantly and patiently reminding customers, construction workers, and florists to wear their masks correctly. Unfortunately, we can’t simultaneously monitor everyone all the time, so it’s not uncommon for someone to slip their mask back down under their nose, or even their chin, when our back is turned or when they are in a “hidden” area such as the North Reading Room or the restroom. Given the current uncontrolled spread of COVID in the community, I wonder if we’re being too lenient. Perhaps one reminder is one too many and people need to be asked to leave as soon as they choose to remove their mask. Or temporarily switching to curbside and delivery services only or services by time-bound appointment, like many other Kansas libraries are currently doing, would also be options.
    Another solution that seemed like a good idea but hasn’t panned out in practice is the laser light pointers. When you are six feet back from the computer screen, you can’t actually see what is on it. In practice, it’s basically impossible to help customers with computers, the fax or copy machine, and maintain social distance at the same time. It’s exhausting to try to mentally balance putting physical distance between yourself and others with attempting to provide the welcoming customer service we’ve been trained to give.

    I’ve previously raised concerns in this forum about spaces that are lacking air purifiers and the need for more handwashing stations that aren’t located inside restrooms, so I want to reiterate those needs.
    Finally, I think we need to create a severe weather plan that takes into account the need for social distancing. How many people can we put in the basement (our designated tornado shelter) and maintain social distancing for both staff and customers? I’ve asked managers about this and was told we would just do our best, which leads me to believe I might be asked to share a close, unventilated space with individuals in our community who are likely COVID positive.

    Like many of my coworkers, I’m not going anywhere right now besides work. The groceries are being delivered. I have no social calendar. It’s disappointing to know that if I catch COVID, it will probably be from a library customer, and that every day I go home and pass that risk on to my family. I look forward to seeing what additional steps we as an institution take to mitigate the risk for both our staff and customers. We have excellence in leadership as one of our stated community impact goals, and this is an opportunity for us to put that leadership into practice. In the words of public health pioneer and Kansan Dr. Crumbine, “the health of each of us depend[s] on the health of all of us.”

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      For me there’s no difference in whether someone accidentally forgets or purposely takes it off, because regardless of intent the damage is already done, and a potential exposure has occurred and we don’t know for how long they have been without a mask.
      Yesterday I had to tell a patron twice to put his mask on properly. The first time he pretended that he didn’t know while in the restroom. The second time after he left the restroom I caught him in the reference room. I reminded him again and he had a bit of an attitude before complying. The third time while cleaning handles I caught him in the north reading room when he noticed me and just put on the mask before departing with another person.

      It’s so frustrating. We can catch them in the act but there really is no force in getting them to comply. They can feign ignorance for the first time but again the damage has already been done. I think regardless of whether they actually forgot or are removing their mask intentionally, they should be told to leave. We are already like 8-9 months into the pandemic, it should by now be second nature. There’s no actual penalty for defying the rules.

      You also bring up an excellent question in regards to severe weather especially with tornadoes. There is no way to social distance and I think we all remember how unusually hot it gets down here with the vast amount of people that we had to bring out fans to cool us down. I don’t think there’s a proper way to do this without pretty much infecting everyone.

  9. Patty Akrouche on said:

    Dave,
    I can’t imagine how awful you felt when fighting this dreaded disease and I’m thankful you are still with us today. Over 260, 000 Americans have succumbed to Covid… and that number has probably increased since last I checked.
    I think having the building open at near maximum hours is fraught with challenges. Are we open mostly for copy/fax and notary services? Is it mainly for computer usage or is it a safe and warm place for our homeless population? I have been asked by a regular bookmobile customer why are we not following the lead of libraries in other areas that are being hit so hard this fall, and closing the building to the public until our hospitals are not at or near capacity. Maybe a further reduction in hours is necessary. Maybe hours of 10-1 and 4-7 would fulfill the needs of those who need more than curbside or home delivery. Those who need urgent services to quickly check their email, send important fax information or print time sensitive documents. Maybe employing the bookmobiles in the main parking lot for faxing? We have a wheelchair lift to get a copy machine loaded on board. A staff member could operate the machinery and hand the materials through the window. I know that Wichita and other libraries in Kansas have a drive thru window which creates an instant barrier and that’s how they are able to achieve a safer interaction.
    As for the sign, I think people aren’t regarding the signs. Make them any color you want but I don’t think it’s a lack of awareness that is the reason it’s not working. Working in the plaza for 4+ hours as bookmobile staff are assigned to do, I find myself trying to keep myself at least 6 ft away from patrons. Most of the time the patrons are so laser focused on what their needs are they lunge towards you as they aren’t thinking about safety, but of getting what they need from you. You may recall the school crossing guards who hold out their arms in a universal symbol of stop. I have employed this along with the words, We need to stay 6 feet apart please. It isn’t snarky, it’s a plea to keep both of us safe. Please be an advocate for your own safety. I have witnessed staff stand shoulder to shoulder with patrons in an effort to help them and it makes me anxious and unnerved. None of us should feel we must choose our safety versus hands on computer, fax, copy machine instruction. We all want to help, as someone stated above we are trained to give some of the best, if not the best customer service in Topeka. Right now however, the best service we can give is to hold firm in the guidance from the CDC and the science.

  10. Todd Smith on said:

    @Lynn Temperature checks are ineffective. My brother just came up positive this weekend and first showed symptoms last Monday. Fever was not one of his symptoms. I reckon it would be more prudent to just assume that a percentage of those walking in the front door are positive and work it from that angle.

    • Lynn Shirley on said:

      I agree, but the article I read on the NYT said that it is a good sign of having covid and all the dr’s offices do it, people with fevers shouldn’t be in here even if it is the regular flu. I just want one more barrier.

      • Angie Reed on said:

        Makes sense to me- I’ve been hearing people coughing and sneezing and generally not looking so healthy lately, and it is driving my anxiety up. We also have plenty of patrons expecting to have their temperature taken when they come in. It also requires that pause that would stop people from storming past us and give us that moment to verbally restate the policies.

      • David Gonzalez on said:

        You make an excellent point. Because even if it isn’t covid-19 if a person has a fever then yeah they shouldn’t be out and about in public. It is good practice to assume that anyone with a fever is contagious with some type of illness.
        Covid-19 is even more dangerous if someone has a weakened immune system and is fighting off even a simple cold or flu.

      • Dawn Stone on said:

        I don’t see a no-tolerance cough policy ever happening. If a person says they are fine, they get to stay. The library can’t send someone home who has chronic allergies or coughs because they smoke. Someone can say they have a runny nose for all kinds of reasons. It’s a very blurry line, with staff anyway, between trusting a staff member at their word, and making a call based on the observed partial data. I’m in the safety camp. However, I am going nowhere (that includes) work) and seeing no one, and I have had a few coughing moments because my house is so dry. I know I don’t have covid, but how would anyone else trust my word if I were at work coughing? I believe it’s one of the biggest challenges for managers right now. I think there should be a no-tolerance policy with the public, for everyone’s safety.

  11. Adrienne Sanders on said:

    It sounds like, at a minimum, we should be closing the restrooms to the public during cleaning. I’d also suggest that the smaller restrooms with only two or three stalls should be single occupancy, because it’s impossible to be six feet apart in some of them. (I’m thinking of the ladies’ room near the break room, for instance. )

  12. Michelle Stottlemire on said:

    I think staff would feel more comfortable monitoring and enforcing compliance if they felt like they could reasonably due to without neglecting/negatively affecting their assigned service area. A big part of this would be to double up staffing in certain service areas. For example, having only one staff member assigned to the plaza means that staff member can only dedicate their attention to a direct patron request (say, help with a kiosk or fax machine) and can no longer monitor and react to the remaining area. Similarly, I am currently the only staff member in the Team Room/Wings assignment (nearly 1/3 of the main floor!) and am doing my best to stay up on compliance, cleaning, monitoring, etc. but it really feels like a losing task when it’s me vs. 20 patrons and thousands of square feet. Could we reevaluate staff numbers in service areas to help ensure compliance and safety?

  13. Lissa Staley on said:

    From the State Library of Kansas on kanlib-l this afternoon:
    “Attached is the Kansas Department of Health and Environment guidance for libraries which I received this afternoon.
    The document offers considerations for libraries dealing operational issues of health and safety.
    Though I am sure your library is taking a measured and considered approach to the well-being of your staff and how to best serve your community, this statewide advice can serve as a benchmark or a frame of reference to help you and your board continue to make the best decisions moving forward.
    Located at the end of the document is a reference list of online resources KDHE used to shape this guidance which will prove useful to those creating a more robust or detailed local policy.
    This information is also available online here: https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1633/KDHE-Guidance-for-Libraries
    More information is available at the State Library website here: https://kslib.info/1442/Covid—19-Resources

    We are doing some but not all of the things – and we have made some changes in the last few days that align with some of these recommendations!

    • Natalie Moreland on said:

      Thank you for sharing these resources! I noted they recommend a 7-day quarantine period for materials based on the REALM study. I wonder what action steps we need to take in order to make that feasible?

  14. Matt Pettit on said:

    David: thanks for your post and I’m glad you’re back.

    I’d put this in qmarkets but as long as you are monitoring this conversation Thad, et al, I’ll lump it in.

    Are we reexamining public printing and copying for 2021? My thought is to suggest raising the number of free pages from 2 to __ (whatever–TBD). I’ve observed in Media specifically what a difference it makes with staff and the public not having to pay. It gets people out of the building faster, means one less kiosk cleaning and no staff time involved with policing debit cards, getting into SAM, people going out to their ashtray to get nickels and dimes. If we still plan to charge, I thought we could find a sweet spot greater than 2 but less than 99 to make most average jobs free.

  15. Jennifer Grammer on said:

    While working the Edge this morning I noticed that there was not an air purifier in the space. This room was completely full this morning. I also had several customers come right up to the desk and not observe the social distancing signs. Maybe something more is needed in that space.

    • Tracie McCluskey on said:

      I have had the same issue in The Edge Jennifer. Patrons walk right up to the desk that has no barrier. I’m also finding it harder to answer computer or printing questions while maintaining social distancing. While we are doing what we can to be safe, being in an uncontrolled transmission category does cause anxiety levels to rise.
      Thank you David for sharing your story and concerns. I am so glad that you and your family have recovered.

  16. Michelle Stottlemire on said:

    Adding testimony to David’s concerns about the bathrooms – I *just* entered the public women’s restroom on the main floor only to find a patron with her personal supplies strewn over two sink spaces, mask off (and over two feet from her), and working on personal grooming tasks.

    • Michelle Stottlemire on said:

      And in my 1 hour of Team Room/Wings combo shift I’ve had to ask 5 people to put their masks up/on (these weren’t accidental slippages) and had to ask 4 patrons to please observe the 6 foot social distancing rule with me while I assisted them.

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      Michelle I want to say thank you thank you and thank you for telling her. No doubt I would had been forced to wait even longer outside if you didn’t intervene. I really appreciate it.
      This is an issue that we deal with constantly and on a daily basis.

      There are homeless individuals that have nowhere else to go and thus use the restrooms to tidy up. I’m not sure how to handle those to be honest. I feel bad for them but at the same time they are putting not just our coworkers at risk but the rest of the public as well. In addition and I know you and Scott were witnesses to a young man who managed to get pass customer service with his nose exposed. I intercepted him and reminded him to wear it properly. Needless to say he wasn’t too happy and mumbled some words but complied.

      I think it is as you mentioned earlier, an issue of staffing to patron ratios. For every staff member there are way more patrons that is possible to keep an eye on. However there’s a drawback to having more staff on the floor with a highly contagious virus. Not sure how to handle that problem.

      Today I caught a man brushing his teeth in the men’s restroom by administration restrooms. I told him he needed to mask up once done with brushing. He said he would. I stepped outside and gave him a minute or so before checking on him again. I would say I was surprised when I caught him shaving instead but I would be lying. I asked my supervisor on the proper course of action. He got security up there and she took care of it and acknowledged his situation in a professional manner.

      I watched the video that Jesse posted a couple weeks ago in getting people to mask up. I highly recommend it but each situation is unique, and certain guidelines may not work out as intended.

      We as a library provide services to patrons but there’s a fine line to what constitutes as appropriate and then inappropriate especially in the height of a pandemic.

    • Dawn Stone on said:

      Michelle, I really think the mirrors need to be completely covered, with signage right where the reflection of your face would appear. “MASK REQUIRED at all times …..” “WASH 20 SECONDS- CDC”

  17. Patty Akrouche on said:

    I started my 3 pm team room shift telling a patron to not go under the closed sign while the bathrooms were being cleaned. I went to wipe down a table, came back to my seat and watched him start to go underneath the sign and scare the maintenance woman who was inside the bathroom. I tried to stop him and he totally disregarded me, a second time. I then had to explain to the woman in team room 3 why she had to vacate her team room when her time was up. She questioned our policy, calling it stupid. When I explained to her, or tried to… she said I didn’t need to explain to her as she is in health care. She then went into the wings and sat along the windowsill. Judy from YS is working the wings and we are both wondering if that is acceptable? She has since left and Judy has disinfected the area.

    • Hayley Swisher on said:

      Patty, was she seated at a computer station in the wings? If so, those are located on the map and we’ve been marking them. From my understanding no one is to sit/stand on the actual windowsills.

      • Patty Akrouche on said:

        Judy, could you respond to this? From my understanding Judy thought she was sitting on/in the windowsill. I saw that we were marking off patrons sitting along that wall as there was one other patron seated in that area.

    • David Gonzalez on said:

      Patty I deal with that issue as well. I will be in the women’s restroom and sometimes they will come in regardless if I’m done or not. I have to go outside and wait but during that waiting period more women will enter.
      I think the problem is that we can set these guidance’s and rules but to get patrons to adhere to them is a whole different ballgame. Many ideas on paper sound perfect but in applying them to the real world is a downright difficult. Not many of them will follow it or will constantly try to weasel out of it.

      Our health means nothing if it inconveniences them. So the question becomes how can we try to get them to care or be morally responsible?

  18. Dawn Stone on said:

    I really think customers and vendors/contractors who violate the mask requirement after having been told once, should be asked to leave the library and not allowed to return to the physical building until after the pandemic. I also believe spaces that are out of the staff’s ability to visually monitor shouldn’t be available, period. Allowing blind spots is a huge safety risk for both our front line and facilities staff. It is already a huge undertaking for them to provide first-class service, and attempt to monitor and sanitize spaces after each customer. How do we expect them to do that, if they can’t easily see where people are and what they are doing. It’s harmful to staff, but also risks the health of any other customer who wants to safely spend time in the library.

  19. Lynn Shirley on said:

    When we are at curbside they have the choice to put the items in the back seat which entails us putting our heads in or nearly in the car or truck. Can’t we have trunk or hood be the mandatory way of delivery? Often people will lean back to grab the holds before I have time to see they are doing that and back up. Almost none of the customers are wearing masks. We have sacks that we could use in rain or snow. Trucks especially we have no choice but front passenger seat.

  20. Natalie Moreland on said:

    I’m working in the Edge right now. I started at 11 and I’ve been here less than an hour. I’ve issued 4 friendly mask reminders. Divide that against the number of customers who have been in this space and that’s 1/3 of our customers who won’t follow the rules. That’s too much.

    According to the CDC, “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.” and those droplets “can remain suspended for many minutes to hours and travel far from the source on air currents.”

    For everyone’s protection, at this point, I think it’s time to issue a no-tolerance policy for people who remove their mask or pull it down under their nose.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/scientific-brief-sars-cov-2.html#:~:text=%E2%80%A2%20Larger%20droplets%20some%20of,source%20on%20air%20currents.

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