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The Bozeman Public Library will open to public on Tuesday for the first time since mid-March.

Hours will be limited, all public seating has been removed and the Bookmobile will remain closed. But the shelves are still full of books that are once again available for checkout.

“We have missed our patrons. In this phase of our reopening, the library will look different and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we navigate these changes together,” said Kit Stephenson, assistant director of the library.

The library will be open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Computers will be accessible for 30 minutes per person and printing will be available. Masks will be highly encouraged but not required.

Stephenson said the mask policy falls in line with city and state policies, which do not require people to wear masks in public, but encourage it. She said masks will be offered to people as they walk in the door.

Occupancy will be limited to 40, meaning some may be asked to wait in a socially distanced line before getting inside. The second floor of the library will be closed, so staff will retrieve materials stored there if needed, Stephenson said.

People will be allowed to wander the first floor, although they’ll be asked to keep it brief.

“I think what people have missed most is just browsing,” Stephenson said.

For those not comfortable going into the building, the library will continue to offer curbside pick up Tuesdays through Fridays, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., a service that began in May.

Patrons can call ahead to check out materials and then pick them up. This service is especially encouraged for people who are older or who have pre-existing conditions.

Staff have put in place safety precautions like signs to show people how to stand 6 feet apart, cleaning frequently used surfaces often and quarantining returned books and other materials.

Research commissioned by the Institute of Museum and Library Services found that the virus that causes COVID-19 cannot live on common library materials, like books, for more than 72 hours. Staff at the Bozeman library came up with a new system so that no one touches materials for three days after they’re returned.

Patrons will return materials to the library’s conference room for quarantine by entering the north entrance facing Main Street. There, folding tables are set up to stack books and materials by genre. People will exit out of a side door so as to not cross paths with others. The normal return boxes near the west entrance are closed.

Most of the library’s programs, like Books and Babies, will continue to be held virtually. However, the library will be offering in-person storytime and take-home kids activities for those who partake in the Human Resource Development Council’s free summer lunch program.

Stephenson said that in-person programming and hours of operation will increase as the library’s reopening plan progresses, but it’s unclear when that will be.

“With the (COVID-19 case) numbers going up again, we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Stephenson said.

That seems to be the case for libraries all over the country. The American Library Association released the results of a survey of 3,850 libraries that found 47% of them didn’t know when they would reopen their building.

Stephenson said the first week of reopening at the Bozeman library will help staff gauge how well the new policies and procedures work. She said they could be modified if needed.

“We’re willing to be super flexible this week … and will be watching closely for needs that aren’t being met,” Stephenson said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at or at 582-2607.