BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — A local library took another protective measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For those visiting the Ida Public Library, 320 N. State St., only disposable or N-95 masks are allowed. The Belvidere library was forced to close its doors for a week after many staff members were sick or exposed to COVID-19, and they asked everyone that comes to the library to wear a disposable mask instead of a cloth one.

“We were requiring cloth masks until just a week ago,” said Mindy Long, Executive Director of the Ida Public Library. “A week ago, we got hit pretty hard with the omicron variant. We just took a stance and said we don’t want to spread this, we have a lot of children here, we have a lot of elderly people. With guidance from our local health department, we are requiring paper masks only in the library. We prefer to have N95s. but they’re very difficult to get right now, so we are having medical grade disposables.”

This means that cloth masks, face shields or any other types of masks are not acceptable. A recent study showed that disposable masks protect people better. The change at the library came after many staff members were out sick with COVID-19.

“These people who were out were fully vaccinated, boosted, so this variant is not really anything to mess around with,” Long said. “It was devastating not to have…our whole business is interacting with patrons face to face. We help you find books, we help you with a computer. We do whatever we can to make sure you have an enjoyable experience here in the library. That’s kind of hard to do when you’re not face to face.”

The new measures are making employees feel more safe while working with the public.

“I think it does for me…having people wear masks that I know have a better seal on them makes me feel a little more comfortable for both my coworkers, and especially, we have a lot of children coming in here who can’t be vaccinated,” said Leah Hotchkiss, Teen Services Coordinator at the Ida Public Library.

“We’re just asking the public please, please wear your mask,” Long added. “We want to stay open as long as possible and provide services to the public if we can.”

Library employees will have some disposable masks available for those that do not have one before entering.