By Lyndsie Kiebert
The East Bonner County Library announced May 3 that it would be dropping its face covering requirement effective Tuesday, June 1. The policy has been in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, sparking several protests and heated debate among community members.
“The board will continue to monitor COVID cases along with new information and reassess the policy as the situation changes,” the library district wrote in a media release.
The board voted at a special meeting April 30 to modify the policy so that masks “will be encouraged, but no longer required” at library facilities. Trustees chose to enact the change June 1 because, by then, most staff and patrons will have had the opportunity to access the vaccine against the virus if they choose to do so.
“The library wishes to thank all the patrons who have been so supportive of this policy and remind them that our curbside service will continue should they be uncomfortable entering the library without a mask requirement,” EBCL officials said.
The decision to lift the mandate comes amid a hotly contested race for two open seats on the library board, for which four candidates are vying: incumbents Amy Flint and Jeanine Asche; and newcomers Kathy Rose and Jalon Peters, who are both running on a platform opposed to the mask mandate.
(See the Thursday, May 13 edition of the Sandpoint Reader for an election Q&A with library board candidates.)
EBCL Director Ann Nichols told the Reader in an email May 5 that she supports the trustees’ decision, which came after ample research and discussion.
“We hope that people will still wear masks in consideration of others,” she said.
Nichols acknowledged the mask mandate’s role in politicizing the upcoming board election — which is nonpartisan — and emphasized the library district’s mission to “provide access to opportunities for discovery, connection, and lifelong learning.”
“It is unfortunate that the election has come at this time,” she said, noting that Flint and Asche “are excellent, educated and experienced professionals that know how libraries work.”
“They should not be replaced by others running on political platforms,” Nichols continued. “The discussion around the election should now focus on what’s most important — experience, qualifications and lack of hidden agendas.”
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