Guttenberg library copes with COVID-19

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The library meeting room is set up as a disinfecting zone. When library materials are returned, staff washes them with a special disinfectant and then props them up for 48 hours before placing them back on the shelf for public use. Above is Katie Beitzel, Guttenberg Public Library Director. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

  Iowa’s public library accreditation program has been in place since 1986. The State Library documents the condition of public library service in Iowa by requiring public libraries to submit accreditation reports. The Guttenberg Public Library was recently accredited for 2020-2023.

The Iowa State Library looks at numerous statistics to determine if a library should receive accreditation. The following are a few examples: 

•An increase in patron numbers and circulation statistics

•Library building updated and handicap accessible meeting all safety codes

• Open 40 hours per week including one evening

• Library director has to certified by the State of Iowa

•A website that is accessible from outside the facility

•A library board that meets on a regular basis. 

COVID-19 cleaning procedures

"Navigating through a worldwide pandemic has been an added challenge," stated Katie Beitzel, Guttenberg Public Library Director. "The library board and I, with input from the staff, have been working together to come up with creative ways to serve the community. We miss the day-to-day interaction with our dedicated library patrons." 

The library has remained available to the public throughout the pandemic taking its guidance from the State Library. "The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes cooperation among libraries worldwide, is doing a study on pandemic disinfecting procedures and keeps us up-to-date on any changes," assured Beitzel. "We have our meeting room set up as a disinfecting zone. When library materials are returned we wash them off with a special disinfectant and then let them sit propped up for 48 hours before placing them back on the shelf for public use." 

The library staff is working diligently to keep the library cleaned and sanitized. "We are disinfecting door handles and high-use surfaces hourly. The bathrooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized with a medical disinfectant after each use," she explained. "We close at 4 p.m. each day so we can completely clean and sanitize all areas of the library. A lot is happening that people are not seeing." 

A limited number of public computers are available for use in compliance with social distancing recommendations. "We have limited the number of computer stations so individuals using the computers are at least six feet apart," Beitzel noted. "Each computer is wiped down with a disinfectant, and then has to dry before the next person can use it. The process is laborious, but it keeps our staff and patrons safe." 

Cleaning supplies across the nation are in high demand. "We were not able to open up as quickly as other business because we did not have enough cleaning supplies to open safely." said the director. She is happy to report, "Eighty-five percent of our library patrons are wearing masks when they enter the building. We have a hand-sanitizing station with cloth masks available to those who do not have one." 

Going the extra mile

The library staff is working hard to accommodate patrons who are unable to get to the library before it closes for the day. "We had to shorten our hours of operation to the public in order to keep the library clean and sanitized and stay within our allotted budget guidelines," Beitzel explained. "We are here cleaning until 5 p.m. each day. If you call ahead and make arrangements, I would be happy to stay a little longer to assist you with your library needs." 

A staff member is in the library every Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon for curbside pickup only. "We have only one staff member working in the library on Saturdays. It is not possible to remain compliant with COVID-19 specifications with only one person on duty," she remarked. 

Remote printing is available from outside the library building. "If you would like to print out a document, but don't want to come in the building, just call ahead and we can place your copy on our curbside pickup cart," she added, "I have acquired more than one gray hair during this pandemic. Our goal is to remain open safely." 

The library staff looks forward to a full reopening when it is safe to do so.  She concluded, "We look forward to opening the library in its full capacity and providing all the great programing our community once enjoyed. Looking forward – we need to remain patient." 

For additional information please call the library at 563-353-3108; e-mail; on the

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