• Emily Rohlfs, Director

Keokuk Public Library works on plan for slow, "phased" approach to reopen


On April 27th, Governor Reynolds announced that some businesses and libraries across Iowa in counties considered “low risk” can reopen at 50% capacity starting on May 1st, including many businesses and libraries in Lee County. On that date it was also announced that 127 Iowans have died of COVID-19, with 5,868 confirmed cases in Iowa, and 29% of those recovered. On April 28th another 9 deaths and 508 confirmed cases were reported.

The Keokuk Public Library understands that our patrons miss the library and would like to return to normal life. We would like that also. We miss your friendly faces, we miss talking with you about what you’re reading, and we miss serving you (supplying you with physical books, answering your questions in person, and helping you at the computers and with other services). Library staff members greatly miss putting on public programs that brought information, joy, and entertainment to people of all ages. It is an unfortunate reality that life is far from normal, and that returning to (pre-COVID-19) normal would endanger public health. The library has prided itself on its role as a safe “3rd place” – a place between work and home or work and school, where everyone is safe and welcome. We’ve also prided ourselves on being a gathering space, and right now this stands in stark contrast with a population urged to socially distance.

An important thing to keep in mind about a public library – we serve all ages and all abilities. We have many young patrons, we have special needs patrons, and we have a lot of patrons that fit into the category of “high risk” for COVID-19. We take public health very seriously and want to protect our patrons as much as possible.

While the library wants to get back to in-building services, we will be closely following the news and CDC guidelines to protect the health of our community. We also must take into consideration our limitations as far as supplies and protective equipment, how we will handle library materials, and how many staff can work at one time to keep them safely apart. When we have seen a 2-week decline in COVID-19 cases in Lee County, library staff will begin to restore limited library services in a slow, phased approach, starting with curbside services. Catching up with existing book requests first, we hope to roll out curbside services in mid to late May, but we will be flexible with dates and plans as we take in new information. We will keep the public updated through the Daily Gate City, the library’s website (, and Facebook. Meeting room reservations and in-person programs are cancelled until further notice.

In the meantime… The Keokuk Public Library would like to remind patrons that staff are still processing Online Only Library Card applications for all interested Lee County Iowa residents, and the form is available at The “old rules” for this application do not apply – if you have old fines and replacement fees, you can still apply for a free Online Only library card to access all online services.

The library staff are working at home to make sure that all Lee County patrons that request it have access to e-books, audiobooks, magazines, streaming video (our new Kanopy subscription), and other online subscriptions like Gale reference (which includes Chilton’s auto repair), Transparent Language foreign language learning, Ancestry (build a family tree), Fold3 (military records), Brainfuse (test prep, tutors, writing lab, and more), and NoveList (find your next great read).

Library staff have launched a home digitization project to put the library’s most popular local history resource online! Stay tuned for more news on the Romeo Bickel Scrapbook collection, a collection of thousands of pages of articles, photos, and original documents on Keokuk history organized by subject by the late Romeo Bickel. Hundreds of pages have been scanned, and we hope to share progress with you very soon.

Summer Reading Program 2020, which was planned for a pre-COVID-19 world, is now being re-planned as an at-home program. Most of the reading program will be online, with video story times and book discussions, online performances by entertainers, and curbside craft kits. The True Crime Book Club has moved their meetings online, and library staff are brainstorming other summer program ideas for adults. More information to come on the SRP in May.

We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this time, and encourage the public to socially distance whenever possible, practice good hygiene like frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face. Questions? Please contact or Library staff are answering reference questions at home.


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