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The Glacier County Libraries in Cut Bank and Browning will be opening–soon. On Thursday, Feb. 18, the Glacier County Commissioners voted to re-open the libraries, taking “one step at a time…I asked you to come with a solution and you did,” stated Commission Chair Mary Jo Bremner during the Commissioners’ meeting with Library Director Jamie Greco. “We want the libraries to open and you to go back to work.”

Bremner opened the meeting on the library issues, stating she was “disappointed” none of the Library Board members were in attendance. The Glacier County Library Board had earlier scheduled a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 18. The majority of the members of the volunteer board work and were unable to attend the morning meeting with the Commissioners. 

Greco invited Bremner, as well as Commissioners Michael DesRosier and John Overcast to attend the Library Board meeting, but only Overcast was available to do so.

Greco is coordinating the “soft opening” of both the Cut Bank and Browning libraries. Currently there is no target date to reopen the facilities for public use, but the Library Board’s reopening plan kicks off this week. Patrons are invited to begin returning books via the book drop in Cut Bank and various drop-off sites in Browning, beginning Thursday, Feb. 25.

Crystal Evans, one of the library board members, volunteered her business, Northern Winds Recovery, as one location and said she would contact other local businesses to ask them to also serve as drop-off sites. 

Greco anticipates the thousands of books that are currently checked out will take some time for her staff to sanitize, quarantine and reshelve. 

The Library Board and Greco developed their COVID-19 “official emergency response” plan back in March 2020 and revised that plan somewhat at their meeting last week. 

Under the plan, the libraries will begin providing services through drive-up or curb service and call-in requests. Patrons will be able to call the libraries at 873-4572 in Cut Bank and 338-7105 in Browning with their requests. These requests can also be made via email to pgclibrary@hotmail.com.  A time will be arranged for curbside pick-up at the libraries. 

As COVID-19 spread lessens, services will graduate to in person checkout and return with short, 15-minute appointments available. Patrons will be able to call the libraries at 873-4572 in Cut Bank and 338-7105 in Browning to make the appointments.

During Stage Two of the plan, seating areas will not be available to the public nor will the public restrooms. Holding civic meetings, however, will be considered on a case by case basis.  COVID-19 safety and cleaning protocols will be required and an appointment will be made to pick up the key to the library facility.

Greco noted, “We want to remind our library supporters they can still access eBooks and audiobooks through MTLib2Go@Mont-ana.overdrive.com.”

Greco and her staff will continue to provide updates to the public via the local newspaper and the libraries’ Facebook page. She will also be working with the Glacier County Health Department to obtain the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE), as well as hand sanitizer and disinfectant to ensure CDC guidelines and standards are followed.

For now, all programming and computer use through the library is suspended but the Library Board, Greco and her staff and working diligently to return the libraries to the level of community service as quickly as possible.

Greco reminds those patrons needing Internet access, the WiFi signal is strong enough to be accessed most of the time  from outside the building.

Hours after the Commissioners gave Greco the go ahead to return to work, she was at the library sifting through the more than 3,000 emails and hundreds of messages that had accumulated since she was furloughed in March 2020. 

When checking emails, Greco learned the security alarm had gone off twice the previous week, once on Feb. 8 and again on Feb. 9. She contacted Maintenance Supervisor Shannon Pepion to see if the facility had checked on it and as of press time hadn’t received a response. Depending on the condition of the building, and staffing, the Browning Library is “uncertain right now,” said Greco on Monday, Feb. 22.

There are many updates and mandatory reports which must be completed and submitted to restore the library to compliance with State guidelines, Greco pointed out.

The Library Board and Greco discussed the possible use of volunteers, such as Friends of the Library members, but determined the library’s using the limited financial resources training volunteers was not the best use of those resources. Greco said a former employee, who already has the training, had volunteered her services to assist the staff, if needed.

According to the latest financial information provided by Glacier County on Jan. 19, there is $44,696 available for operations of the libraries. 

During their meeting last week, the Library Board said they would like to meet with the Glacier County Commissioners to discuss several issues, including the need to receive accurate and timely financial information from the county.

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