FVRL’s COVID-19 Response and Frequently Asked Questions

A letter from our Director

As the coronavirus pandemic heads into its ninth month, the team here at Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries (FVRL) is committed to exceptional service to our communities more than ever. Our staff is providing curbside pickup service to our patrons at all of our locations and we are also sending out books by mail. Library staff are available to answer questions or provide assistance by phone and online seven days a week. We had hoped to open our library buildings to the public in November, but those plans have been postponed due to the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our communities.

In the meantime, we are busy making sure our communities are being served with online programs and resources, as well as printing services and browsing assistance available through our website. We are also continuing the work of our libraries behind the scenes, including ordering and processing new materials, building new libraries in Ridgefield and Yale, and other aspects of maintaining our operations. A recent flood at our Operations Center has led to further delays, but we are still striving to serve our users each and every day.

Once we are able to welcome the public into our buildings again, we will face challenges in maintaining appropriate social distance, providing adequate ventilation to reduce the spread of airborne particulates, tracking the number of people allowed in the library at a given time, frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, enforcing mask compliance and potentially notifying anyone who has used the building should anyone (either staff or public) become ill.

We are focusing our efforts on serving the public as much as we can at this time, and are utilizing as many staff as possible while following the guidelines to keep them safe. We enacted a hiring freeze at the start of the closure and are currently 18% below our 2020 budget on year-to-date expenditures. While we are spending more on cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment for the public and staff, and materials to build partitions, we are saving on overhead expenses created by shorter hours of operation, reduced staffing and less programming.

According to the Safe Start Washington plan, libraries and museums were granted the opportunity to reopen in Phase 2 and Phase 3 based on guidelines for those services. Those guidelines gave libraries the latitude to determine the best path for their organizations on reopening. We had been working hard to prepare for this new stage. However, new guidelines that were issued on November 15 are unclear on the status of libraries although other similar businesses have been asked to cease indoor access and return to curbside only service. FVRL is still planning for a graduated approach to the restoration of services once we get through these current challenges. We appreciate the care with which the state has approached this process as we believe they have everyone's health and safety in mind.

We greatly value the taxpayers' support of the library and our services, and can assure you that our staff is working hard to do what we can at this time. We are continuing to look for new ways to serve our communities within the current restrictions and will open our buildings as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, check out our FAQs for more information on the services we offer now. Thank you for your patience and support.

-Amelia Shelley, Executive Director
November 16, 2020

Questions about FVRL’s coronavirus response

Why aren't our libraries open to the public? My county is in Phase 2 or Phase 3, when can I expect the library will open?

On October 6, updates to the Safe Start Washington plan were announced, allowing libraries the option for indoor activity in Phase 2 at 25% capacity or less, and in Phase 3 at 50% capacity. Those guidelines gave libraries the latitude to determine the best path for their organizations on reopening. We had been working hard to prepare for this new stage. However, new guidelines that were issued on November 15 are unclear on the status of libraries although other similar businesses have been asked to cease indoor access and return to curbside only service. FVRL is still planning for a graduated approach to the restoration of services once we get through these current challenges. The health and safety of our staff and patrons is our top priority as we assess these new rules.

What is the library doing to maintain safety?

We've created safety procedures to ensure that we're keeping you, our staff, and our facilities and materials safe.

Why can't I use a computer?

We recognize that access to the internet is a critical library service. For those with their own device, the internet is accessible through our public Wi-Fi in most of our libraries’ parking lots. Computer access within our libraries cannot be provided until Phase 3 of Washington’s “Safe Start.” In the meantime, we are working on social distancing plans for the eventual reopening of our buildings to the public in a safe manner.

Is there a risk that library materials carry the virus?

FVRL is quarantining all library materials for a minimum of 24 hours prior to release. Books that are visibly dirty will receive additional surface cleaning. All staff handling returned materials are following strict protocols for personal hygiene and protective equipment to avoid the spread of germs and keep us all safe.

What digital resources are available while the library is closed?

See What to do while you're staying at home, or take a look at the large number of online resources available under "Books, Music, Movies & More" and "Research & Learn Online." We are working on increasing access to eBooks and other content during our closure.

I’m in quarantine or isolation. Will I be billed for the materials if I don't return them now?

If you can’t return them right now, it’s okay. FVRL doesn't charge overdue fees, and even if your items are billed as "lost," the bill will be canceled when the items are returned in good shape.

Is your Wi-Fi available?

Yes, Wi-Fi is available 24/7 at all FVRL locations (try the parking lot or other locations around the buildings). For a full list of local Wi-Fi locations, see the Washington Wi-Fi map.

Can I get help with a question or using my e-device?

Yes, our library staff are available to assist you with questions about library resources or to help you access our downloadable content.

Is the Library Board still meeting? Can I submit comments to the Board?

Yes, public meetings are still under the Governor’s order 20-05 and 20-28 to be held remotely. Information about Library Trustee meetings is available on the Board of Trustees page. Here's how to submit comments for the virtual Board Meeting:

Regular agenda items: Comments related to items on the regular agenda must be submitted prior to 1 pm on the day of the meeting in one of these ways: by email to trustees@fvrl.org, by calling 360-906-5011 and leaving a message, or by mail to 11818 SE East Mill Plain Blvd Suite 415, Vancouver WA 98684. Comments on items on the regular agenda will be provided to the Board of Trustees prior to the meeting for their review. Names of commenters and topics addressed will be entered into the formal minutes of the meeting.

Public Hearings: Citizens wishing to comment on the subject of a public hearing must submit their name and phone number prior to 1 pm the day of the meeting by emailing trustees@fvrl.org or by calling 360-906-5011 with a request to participate in the public hearing. During a public hearing, the Board Chair will call on the speaker and the moderator will unmute the participant. Comments will be limited to three minutes.

General comments on items not on the agenda will be forwarded to the Board for their review. See FVRL’s Guidelines for Public Comment Periods for more information.