Message from the Grayson County Friends of the Library
The Grayson County Friends of the Library would like to take this opportunity to thank our Library Director, Mary Thomas, for the outstanding leadership she has shown during the pandemic crisis. Our library was forced to change quickly and without precedent as the Covid 19 virus swept through the country. Our director did an excellent job keeping the library in line with all government regulations and protecting both the patrons and employees. She devoted long hours to exploring all available options, sought guidance from the Library of Virginia, and researched options with many other librarians across our commonwealth.
As we hope to move forward to reopening in a safe and healthy manner, we thank Mary for the concern, caring, and professionalism she has shown during this emergency situation.
The WGRL Board of Trustees met on May 21st at the Grayson Public Library. Public comments were heard, all emails and letters received concerning the recent layoffs of part time employees due to the Covid-19 pandemic were read into the meeting record, and the board carefully considered all available information.
Guided by the Governor’s regulations and guidelines for trying to control the spread of thepandemic, the WGRL realized it would not reopen its doors soon, and the fiscal uncertainty no longer allowed all employees to continue with paid leave that began on March 19, 2020. The Library Director, Mary Thomas, in consultation with members of the Board, did her due diligence and commenced researching the library’s options.
The Library of Virginia’s Human Resource Director, Library of Virginia’s Director of Library Development and Networking Division, a Public Library Consultant and other Library Directors in Virginia were all consulted by Director Thomas who provided the Board with three possible options: continue with paid leave, furlough, or layoff. The pros, cons, and the financial impact of each option on the employee were also presented to the Board members. The option of furlough was deemed not available because it was necessary to give employees a firm date to return to work, which was and is not possible. The Board supported the decision to layoff part time employees with two weeks additional paid leave. The Board of Trustees was kept informed and gave input throughout this process. The Board feels confident that it, and Director Thomas, followed a valid process regarding the layoffs.
The WGRL Board meetings are open to the public and public comments are heard and considered. We review financial statements at every board meeting, conduct independent annual audits, review, update, and improve policies, and invite input from all stakeholders. All part-time employees who were laid off are invited to apply if/when part-time positions once again are needed. The Board values the expertise of both its full and part-time staff and appreciates the role they play in ensuring our library patrons have a positive experience as their needs are met.
The WGRL Personnel Policy has a Grievance Procedure (Problem Resolution), however employees upset with the layoff chose to air their complaints on social media rather than abiding by the procedures in the policy. We regret the negative impact that their action has had on our constituents.
The Board fully supports the Director, Mary Thomas, and is making no changes to her employment at this time.
The Library Director is currently making plans to safely resume library services. Plans for the reopening will be posted on the WGRL webpage.
Chair, WGRL Board of Trustees
Press Release date May 4, 2020
Wythe-Grayson Regional Library Faces Challenges
The last few months have presented unique challenges to households, businesses and governments not seen in generations. This past week, a record 22 million Americans were listed
as unemployed, a level not seen since the Great Depression. Across the nation and inSouthwest Virginia, life and commerce has been brought to a standstill as we collectively attempt to defeat a microscopic but deadly enemy.
Unfortunately, local public libraries are not immune to this crisis or virus. In an effort to ensure public safety as well as remain compliant with state and federal orders, Wythe-Grayson Regional Library has been closed to the public since mid-March and there is currently no definite reopen
date in sight.
“The decision to close our doors was extremely difficult, as I consider our services to be essential, however, I also feel a responsibility to keep our employees and patrons safe,” said
Mary Thomas, director of the regional library system. All library employees have enjoyed paid leave since March 19, 2020, to the present, as it was
initially hoped that the shutdown would only last a few short weeks and normal life would quickly resume.
Sadly, this has not been the case and nearly twelve weeks will have passed by the time the June lockdown order is lifted and even then, public libraries in Virginia will face an uncharted new world where the scope of operations may be severely limited or extraordinarily different.
“We are extremely proud of the dedicated and passionate individuals who serve on staff at our regional libraries; however, it has become clear that it simply is not financially sustainable to keep employees on the payroll indefinitely while the library is closed or their services are no longer being utilized – especially when it is clear that when we do re-open our doors things will
be entirely different from how they were previously,” said Thomas, adding, “For us the choice is basically, do we continue paying all library staff members indefinitely while the library is closed or lay them off in an effort to save our public libraries in Wythe and Grayson Counties – These are our two options.”
Thomas said she made the difficult decision to lay off all part-time workers rather than furlough them, which would guarantee a job once things resumed because at this stage, it is not clear
that there will be work for the library employees once the library does reopen or that the budget will allow for such employees.
“It would be unfair to the workers if we told them they were going to be furloughed, knowing that we don’t believe there will be work for them to return to or that funding will exist to keep
their positions in the months ahead,” stated Thomas.
With trillions of dollars’ worth of wealth erased from existence over the past several months, local governments in Virginia are experiencing revenue shortfalls not seen in nearly a century –
tourism revenues, the lifeblood of many communities, is virtually non-existent, and local courts are closed.
Local libraries have already begun feeling the financial woes as fines, which have served as a significant source of revenue for branches have ceased due to weeks of library doors being
shuttered. The result is a perfect storm that has tasked governing boards across the nation with the unenviable job of navigating a perilous fiscal landscape.
“This decision was not arrived at lightly or without extensive research. Our hearts break for the pain our decision has caused for our part-time employees, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers who are also suffering greatly,” concluded Thomas.
Contact: Judy Buck, Chair WGRL Board of Trustees at email@example.com
COVID-19 Library Response Update
Update posted 2020-03-21
The Wythe-Grayson Regional Library, in an abundance of caution in response to COVID-19, is currently closed from March 19 – April 4. The WGRL Board of Trustees is staying on top of this developing situation. Please check back for updates as this time frame is subject to change.
WGRL is a five-library system that includes:
Wythe County, Wytheville
Rural Retreat, Rural Retreat
Grayson County, Independence
Whitetop, Community Center, Whitetop
Fries Public Libraries, Community Center, Fries
Updates will be posted on the WGRL website and FaceBook page.
Need an Internet connection? WiFi is available at each location. WiFi can generally be picked up from parking spaces that face the library building. To access the WGRL public WiFi at any of our locations: access code: 0123454321.
Everyone with WGRL library materials checked-out are in a fine free grace period up to April 30th. There is no rush to get checked-out items back to your home library. If you wish to return your items currently all book drop boxes are open. Any fines that may be assessed from March 18 – May 1 will be waived.
The library had implemented social distancing and cleaning procedures earlier in the week. As events have escalated in the past few days around COVID-19 the library board decided it was time to take the next step and close all branch libraries. The libraries closed at 5 pm on Wednesday March 18th. Our concern is for the health and wellbeing of our staff and library users.
If you have tried to call your home library you have been met with a prerecorded message. Library Staff are on administrative leave. If you have a question that has not been answered you can email your question(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org, this email will be periodically checked through out the week. We will do our best to respond in a timely manner.
Mary Thomas, Director
COVID19 Library Response_2020-03-16
The Wythe-Grayson Regional Library System (WGRL) is closely monitoring information about the Coronavirus (COVID19). The health and safety of staff and our library users is a priority.
Currently all 5 libraries in the system are open and operating on normal schedules. Please check our website and Facebook page for updates. Hours of operation during this time are subject to change.
We are implementing protocols as needed. We are following directions from state and local health officials. This is so we can respond as needed as this situation develops. WGRL is encouraging social distancing and implementing measures until further notice.
Starting Monday March 16th, WGRL will be initiating the following procedures. Library Administration will evaluate and resume normal operations when it is deemed safe to do so.
In order to reduce the likelihood of illness spreading, WGRL is implementing the following via social distancing measures. The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.”
The following will take effect Monday March 16 and be in effect until further notice is given.
- All Events, Programs, Outreach programs and Meeting room reservations and use are cancelled
- All Libraries will be open for posted hours of operation. This is subject to change.
- Updates and changes will be posted on the Library Website and FaceBook
WGRL Website: https://wythegrayson.lib.va.us/
Along with many other measures noted below, this means:
- Meeting rooms are not available for use.
- Please check program calendar for cancellations and/or relocation.
- Library Programs using Meeting/Conference rooms will be cancelled or relocated to the main library as possible.
- Please check library calendar for updates.
- Community groups using Library Meeting/Conference Rooms are being contacted and informed that the rooms are not available at this time
- Computers and seating have been modified, with fewer available for use.
- Time limits may be implemented during peak times.
- Computer stations will be wiped down throughout the day.
- Payment for fines, fees, or printing/copying should be made with credit or debit, if possible.
- Cash handling is limited.
- We are asking Library users and staff to keep a 4 to 6 foot distance from others, including while staff are assisting patrons with questions.
- Books should be returned by book drop where possible.
- We request no direct hand off to staff at check out or when returning items.
- Outreach programs are cancelled. This is specific to Nursing Homes, schools and childcare facilities.
- Outreach Book services are switching to mail delivery on March 16th. Limited number of items will be mailed in a two-week time frame to our outreach patrons.
Other measures include:
- Cleaning and sanitizing all libraries with disinfectant.
- Display posters promoting good hygiene.
- Making hand sanitizers available for library users.
- Removal of all toys, Legos and kits from the children’s area of all libraries until further notice.
- Removal of community puzzle tables until further notice.
- Keeping all exterior book drops open and unlocked at all times.
- Fines will be suspended between March 16- April 30. This is only for fines accrued during this time frame.
- Maintain proper personal hygiene at all times while in the work place.
- Follow social distancing at all times.
- Limit work related travel for meetings and workshops. Starting March 16th all staff non-essential travel for work is restricted.
- Encouraging any employee who is sick to stay home.
If you prefer not to visit a library in person, you can contact library staff to get your questions answered.
Wythe County Public Library: 276-228-4951
Grayson County Public Library: 276-773-2761
Whitetop Library: 276-388-2873
Rural Retreat Library: 276-686-8337
Fries Library: 276-744-2225
Also check the following for updates:
WGRL Website: https://wythegrayson.lib.va.us/
The library has a vast collection of digital materials that can be accessed through WGRL website, such as
Online Catalog: https://mountaincat.evergreenva.org/eg/opac/home
eBooksand downloadable audiobooks.
Databases, and much more.
Need help gaining access to materials? Call your local library.
Tips to keep you and your Family Safe:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Maintain Social Distancing
- Avoid toughing your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw tissue in the trash.
- Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider.
- Stay home when you are sick.
Sharing accurate information from trusted sources is critical to reduce misinformation. Find reliable and current information about the outbreak from local, state, and national agencies below.
Information from Local, State, and National Agencies
- Virginia Department of Health; COVID19 – –
- VDH Fact Sheet – –
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention General Information:
- World Health Organization – –
News and Reference Articles
- MedlinePlus – –
- National Institutes of Health – –
- Mayo Clinic – –