Central Arkansas Library System drops mask mandate for all branches

The Central Arkansas Library System has dropped its mask mandate for all branches, effective today.

Attendees of certain events hosted by the library system, including shows at the Ron Robinson Theater, will still be required to wear masks.

For a period between May and August, masks were recommended but not required for patrons entering library buildings.

However, in mid-August, the library system reimposed its mask mandate amid a wave of covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas driven by the delta variant.

At a library system board meeting on Thursday, Lisa Donovan, deputy executive director of library operations and director of literacy and learning, said the leadership team discussed the relaxation of covid-19 health protocols.

A decision was made several weeks ago when individuals were planning March programs “to allow them to plan some in-person programs as the numbers were down and we thought it was a good time to do it,” said said Donovan.

She added that officials had considered lifting the mask requirement and watching what other organizations were doing.

Officials decided it was time to lift the mask requirement due to low numbers as well as the availability of vaccines and high-quality masks, Donovan said.

In-person programs will be allowed in the library system again starting today, she said, describing the move as “not as huge a diversion as the masking policy, really.”

Donovan said some in-person programs were underway “here and there” until outbreaks related to the delta and omicron variants of the virus.

She recalled that masks had always been necessary for most of the pandemic, with the exception of a few months just before the delta variant.

At the same time, Donovan noted that masks will still be necessary in some situations.

Attendees at an upcoming used book sale scheduled for March 10-12 in the basement of the Main Library at 100 Rock St. will be required to wear masks.

Additionally, at the Ron Robinson Theater in the Library System, attendees age 2 or older will be required to continue wearing masks.

Customers aged 13 and over will also be required to provide proof of vaccination or, alternatively, proof of a negative covid-19 test taken within 48 hours of the start time of the event.

Events at the Ron Robinson Theater are set to resume in earnest this month with a slate of film screenings as well as a live event on Saturday that will feature local radio “legends”.

The 315-seat venue is located in the River Market District at 100 River Market Ave.

In a written report prepared for last Thursday’s library system board meeting, executive director Nate Coulter wrote that since the board’s meeting the previous month, nine staff members had tested positive for the virus.

The library system had 214 full-time employees, 73 part-time employees and six pages as of last week, Coulter noted for context in his report.

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