Short Takes from the Library Trustees January Meeting

January 19, 2023

Foot Traffic Up In Library

As people feel more comfortable going out and about, foot traffic in the Bedford Free Public Library hit a total high mark of 767 on a recent Wednesday, according to Director Richard Callaghan. Wednesday is also a school half day which means the Library plays host to a large number of students.  And to Library staff that is a welcome sign of a return to normalcy. 

To Mask or not to Mask?

At their Jan. 17 meeting, the Trustees dispensed rapidly with routine business items and then devoted a major part of their meeting to a discussion initiated by Trustee Rachel Field on the issue of requiring masks in the Library.  Field-who says she is in disagreement with the latest Covid advice from the Bedford Board of Health-has great concern for “the vulnerable populations in our community, including children and the immunosuppressed who may not be inoculated.”

In the interest of public health, Field first proposed a two-part plan: that Library staff be required to wear masks when working with the public and second, that patrons be “requested, not required” to wear masks in the building.

Library Trustees discussed the possibility of employee mask requirements and masking signage around the library at their meeting on Tuesday.

Her proposal precipitated a lengthy, respectful conversation with each Trustee weighing in on her suggestions. Several members mentioned that masks are not required in any Bedford municipal building or in the Bedford schools. Director Callaghan noted that some staff members do wear masks and this is their personal choice. Ultimately, Field moved that the Library staff wear masks when facing the public. Her motion was defeated, five votes opposed to one in favor.

Field next moved that the Library post signs on the entryways and on the Library website requesting but not requiring that patrons wear masks in the library until further notice.  Again, Field stated she felt this was in the best interest of “community health,” to protect the most vulnerable populations. The language of this motion was amended several times, with some Trustees arguing that the message was too complex for the doorways and most patrons entering the building don’t read posted signs.

In the end, Field withdrew her motion.  

The Trustees then asserted their ability to instruct the Library Director to post a simple, straightforward graphic image of a figure wearing a mask on the doors, with brief language asking patrons to mask when inside the building. No vote was required for the Director to take this action.

How long will the Trustees continue to meet via Zoom?

Callaghan said virtual meetings will continue through April, according to state rules. In preparation for potential “hybrid” meetings, i.e., in person or on Zoom, he has purchased the OWL system for the Library. This is the system currently in use by the School Committee.

The February meeting of the Trustees will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. There is opportunity for public comment at the beginning of each meeting.

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