Amid considerations about vaccination charges, Metropolis Council has pushed again the day Austin Public Library staff will return to their bodily workplaces. The change isn’t anticipated to impression a plan to start reopening public libraries on Might 10.

“I actually recognize the way in which the general public library has maintained that steadiness of offering a stage of service whereas prioritizing the well being and security of its staff. … The abiding concern stays, which is that public library employees can be requested to report again to work on Monday, April 5, at a time the place seemingly lots of them haven’t acquired the vaccine,” stated Council Member Kathie Tovo, who sponsored the decision to delay staff’ return.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, Council modified the date of return for library staff from Monday to “no ahead of Might 1.” Council Member Mackenzie Kelly was absent for the vote.

Austin Public Library plans to open 11 branches for categorical in-person service on Might 10, with all different branches to open June 28. The branches opening in Might are Central, Carver, Hampton Department at Oak Hill, Manchaca, Milwood, North Village, Outdated Quarry, Ruiz, Spicewood Springs, College Hills, Windsor Park, and Yarborough. (Although College Hills is briefly closed attributable to harm from Winter Storm Uri.)

Library Director Roosevelt Weeks informed Council that the sooner return to work would have allowed staff a interval of acclimation to new security procedures and never working from residence. Out of 450 employees members, 225 are already working in library services and 125 staff by no means stopped. Weeks stated that division is “a giant morale problem.”

“Our important staff didn’t cease working in March,” he stated. “And certainly one of their largest considerations is, why should we do that? Why should we do that? Then, when in June we opened up the curbside providers, people who present curbside service stored saying, why should we do that? Why should we be on the market doing this?”

Regardless of the change in timeline, Weeks stated libraries would keep on observe to start reopening in Might, citing a “determined want” for entry to computer systems.

“There’s a digital divide. And we’re making an attempt to do as a lot as we will to be sure that individuals can have entry,” he stated.

A memo from Austin Human Sources Director Joya Hayes and interim Assistant Metropolis Supervisor Shannon Jones to Metropolis Council notes:

Austin Public Library (APL) … helps to supply equitable know-how entry for residents throughout the town, notably customers who’re low-income, unhoused, and individuals of coloration. Pre-pandemic, over 500,000 individuals used APL computer systems and one other 500,000 used APL’s Wi-Fi entry. The restrictions of service has vastly impeded the flexibility for a lot of of APL’s prospects to register for vaccinations and procure different vital info on out there assets and assist packages. It’s essential that APL offers pc entry to our residents to allow them to reap the benefits of vaccination sign-ups and different social providers supplied by the town, state, and federal governments.

Council’s main concern concerning the library reopening plan was the unknown vaccination price for library staff. Whereas the town can neither mandate vaccines nor ask staff about their standing, Hayes gave a fast rundown of the present state of affairs on the metropolis. That dialogue is anticipated to proceed Tuesday throughout the metropolis’s weekly Covid briefing.

Hayes stated that, although the town had bought 6,000 vaccines within the fall “hoping to remain forward,” they’d solely acquired 300 to this point. Till they obtain the rest of these vaccines, the town is collaborating with Austin Public Well being to deal with the wants of staff, prioritizing those that deal straight with the general public. Thus far, Hayes stated, greater than 3,400 metropolis staff have been vaccinated.

“We try to prioritize our front-facing staff with the photographs that we now have out there now. Austin Public Library is certainly one of a number of departments the place we try to earmark these staff and get them registered for vaccinations,” she stated. “If there may be an Austin Public Library employees member who is eighteen years or older, they will register now. We allotted way more photographs than we now have presently (have) individuals signed up for.”

Photograph made out there by a Creative Commons license.

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