Christian Blacet says he appreciates the extra time he has been able to spend at Muskogee Public Library recently.

"It's the end of the semester and I have two more 20-page papers to write," the Rice University online student said while using his laptop by a second-floor window Monday morning.

"I came here a lot during the semester, but I had to leave after an hour each time," Blacet said. 

He said he expected to spend four or five hours there Monday.

More people can come back to area libraries for longer periods as the Eastern Oklahoma Library System eases COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions put in place last spring.

"The biggest update is that we don't have any limit on how long people can be in the library," said Muskogee Public Library Branch Manager Jessica Conley. "It was 30 minutes. Now they can come in and spend as long as they need."

Libraries also have lifted their 30-person cap on how many can be in the building, Conley said.

However, some restrictions remain.

"We are still requiring people to wear masks the whole time they are in the library and maintain social distancing," Conley said.

Social distancing markers remain on the floor, about 6 feet apart. 

Larger meeting rooms will open this week for groups of 10 or fewer, she said. At MPL, those rooms are the southeast meeting room and the Grant Foreman room.

"We're doing that so we don't have 10 people trying to use it," she said.

Smaller rooms, such as the genealogy room and the Maker Space 3-D printer room remain by appointment only.

The library is moving furniture to gradually accommodate more people.

Early literacy computers will be set up again in the children's area, Conley said.

However, MPL is not ready to offer onsite story time, she said.

"Story time regularly drew over 50 people, and that's just too many to try and have at one time," she said.

The EOLS Summer Reading program, "Tails and Tales" will remain mostly virtual, Conley said. 

"We're using a program called Beanstack to track summer reading for adults and for kids," she said. "We're going to have virtual programs."

Muskogee library does plan small craft lessons with 10 or fewer participants through the summer, Conley said. "We'll break them up into different rooms and have different sessions to get them all in."

The library also will have a drive-in Extreme Animals program this summer.

"They will stand on the back dock and show off the animals, then walk around the cars and show them to the kids," Conley said. "This will allow us to have that spaced out and still let everybody be able to enjoy it." 

Conley said libraries are following state and county health department guidelines, as well as those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide their policies. 

EOLS Summer Reading Program

• Early registration for the Eastern Oklahoma Library System's Summer Reading Program, Tails & Tales runs through May 14. Patrons can sign up online by visiting https://eols.beanstack.com/reader365 

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