All Knox County Public Libraries to reopen on July 17

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Public Library system is preparing to reopen all branches this week.

All 19 Knox County Public Library branches will reopen on Thursday, July 17 on their regular schedules. Eight of the 19 branches had reopened in late May after closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In compliance with the Knox County Board of Health regulations, all patrons and staff must wear face coverings inside the buildings except for children 12 years and younger and people with relevant medical conditions. Masks will be made available for those who may not have one.

Each library has been fully sanitized and equipped with plexiglass sneeze shields at service counters. Available seating has been arranged to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

Library materials will be isolated for 72 hours after being returned.

No public computers will be available; however, every location is equipped with Wi-Fi. Storytimes, other programs and meeting room use will be suspended until further notice.

Behind-the-scenes there are added sanitzation procedures in place for returned books before they go back on the shelves.

A library employee at the Fountain City branch checks-in a book.

Wearing gloves, library employees clean all returned books and put them in a separate room to sit, untouched, for 72 hours.

“After 72 hours we’ll get them back out to the public. They’ll be a delay in filling some holes, but it’s very safe. We feel comfortable with that, the public should feel comfortable with that,” said Mary Pom Claiborne, the Assistant Director for Marketing, Communications and Development for the library system.

The cart used to transport books to the quarantine room is also sanitized before and after every use. Employees wash their hands after this procedure, too, as an added layer of safety while on the job.

“There will be library service everywhere there was before,” said Claiborne.

Once the books have cleared the 72-hour mark, they are put back into rotation as usual.

The reopening of every branch will also allow library card holders to put holds on books once again. This will allow a book to be reserved and picked-up at any branch within the system.

Returned books are cleaned and set in a quarantine room for 72 hours.

“We are very happy to be able to reopen all facilities for our patrons,” Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said in a statement. The library provides important services to our community from early literacy to lifelong learning.”

The reopening will allow 67 remaining library employees who were on furlough to return to work. The county furloughed 194 Knox County library employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the library is not able to offer in-person programs, many storytimes, podcasts and other programs are available online at www.knoxlib.org.

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