Starting Monday, the Billings Public Library will be offering more services to the public because COVID vaccinations are on the rise and case counts are falling.
Due to the pandemic, the library had to cut down the time patrons could spend in the building. Patrons will soon be able to browse for an hour.
“The most exciting thing is that we are going to let people be in the building for a longer period of time. They can come in for an hour, you can browse, you can take your time a little bit more instead of just a grab and go,” said Hannah Stewart-Freeman, Billings Public Library assistant director, Friday afternoon.
The library will also be opening more public computers. Fourteen computers will be available for 60-minute sessions per person, per day. Normal cleaning protocols will still be in place.
Stewart-Freeman said that a new addition to the library are iPads. She said the iPads will allow patrons to read newspapers and magazines digitally since the library is moving away from paper products.
Two popular rooms among patrons, the Genealogy and Forum rooms, will be reopening, and the microfilm reader will be back online.
Stewart-Freeman said the digital summer reading program is starting up again but with an exciting change.
“One of the coolest things that I think we are doing this year is prizes. So, if you read your books and meet your mission, one of the prizes that we are doing is we have adopted animals at the local zoo. We've got the little certificates that say you are helping the tigers or the porcupine or the eagles get their enrichment and also be provided for. We are also giving you a stuffed animal that is representative of that animal,” said Stewart-Freeman.
For people that miss browsing the library with a drink or snack from the café, you are in luck.
“The cafe is open. Mrs. Cynthia has started cooking yet again and she has some really excellent baked goods. She has some really fun drinks that you should come and try. It’s kind of a nice little central hub here if you want to run downtown grab your books and a drink. It’s kind of like a Barnes and Noble experience downtown,” said Stewart-Freeman.
While the library is opening more programs and allowing patrons to browse for longer, some things will remain the same until further notice.
Furniture will still be off-limits for patrons, programs will remain online, and some rooms such as the Tech Lab, Community Room and Yellowstone Board Room will remain closed.
Stewart Freeman said staff is discussing opening more in the future.
“The safer that things become, the more we can open up. We are not sure what that looks like right now or what the timeline is, but we are definitely in the trenches thinking about it,” said Stewart-Freeman.
For more information, visit the Billings Public Library website.