The city of Santa Fe is opening up — we’ve all seen the signs.
Diners line up outside restaurants. It’s hard to find parking spots, stores are busy with shoppers and dozens of people walking around the Plaza all show the isolation of a pandemic is ending.
Now, on July 7, the three branches of the Santa Fe Public Library will be open to in-person patrons again.
That’s wonderful news for all who like to choose books in person. July 7 is a Wednesday, but after the initial opening, the branches will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday for the time being. We can’t wait.
For much of the pandemic shutdowns, library employees worked hard to offer book lovers the opportunity to check out materials for curbside pickup. But the joy of browsing the shelves in person was not possible. The doors were closed.
In a month, though, in-person visits return. Patrons can sit and work at computers for up to an hour and print documents if needed. Restrooms will be open, as will Friends of the Library bookstores. Curbside pickup still will be available for those who need it and books will be returned outdoors.
To protect children and adults who don’t have vaccinations, face coverings over the mouth and nose still will be required. In other words, mask up, even if you are vaccinated. That’s not a difficult requirement to keep at-risk people safe.
For families with kids on summer break, visits to the library are one of the best ways to keep academic skills strong. Reading is a family activity, a way to share interests and learn more about our fascinating world. Not having a library available can put kids even further behind over the summer.
Libraries are a place of fun and entertainment, too, with activities for children.
Any in-person programs this summer now will take place outdoors, another safety feature. That public libraries are opening soon is another sign that the country, state and city are putting the pandemic in the rear-view mirror.
But much of city, county and state government services remain closed to the public. That’s understandable given that not everyone is vaccinated and children, especially, remain at risk. So do people with compromised immune systems.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has shown how important communication is so that people know what to expect. In announcing the libraries’ physical reopening, the city of Santa Fe let people know what was coming, what the rules and hours were for operation and what services would be offered. We know what to expect.
It would be useful to issue a similar release to discuss when city recreational facilities will open more broadly.
The flagship center, the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, still opens at 6:30 a.m. weekdays instead of the pre-pandemic opening hour of 5:30 a.m. — and that later hour makes it difficult for people who go to work at 8 a.m.
We still don’t have evening hours, which excludes most people with day jobs.
Residents need to know when hours will expand and services will return to whatever a new normal will be — including expanded evening hours and perhaps a return to facilities being open Sundays. Not having to make reservations to stop by the gym would be welcome, too.
It’s not just the city that needs to announce how it will be reopening, especially in governmental departments that serve the public. We know from letters sent that people are wondering when they can resume drop-in visits to the Motor Vehicle Division, and property owners with tax issues or people who need a wedding license might welcome a chance to drop by Santa Fe County offices without having to make an appointment.
The restrictions were necessary, but it’s time now not just to open but to let people know when expanded services are happening — whether at the city, county or state. The more people know, the better off everyone will be.