A Phased Approach for Safely Reopening Public Libraries
Reopening in each community will be different. We encourage library administrators and boards to work with their city or county government to determine the appropriate time to phase in library services. The following strategies and resources are provided to assist local libraries with their planning efforts in this difficult time.
Reopening plans will include multiple factors including timelines, processes, and the modification of traditional library services. Reopening will also depend on the library’s ability to acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ensure a safe environment for staff and patrons.
Potential Phases for Reopening
- Phase 1: Minimal staff in buildings; buildings closed to the public
- Phase 2: Most staff return to work in buildings; building still closed to the public
- Phase 3: Limited public service restored
- Phase 4: Full service restored
Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an important consideration in any reopening decision. The Arkansas Department of Health requires every person to wear a face covering completely over the mouth and nose in all public indoor environments.
- Do staff have access to face coverings and other PPE?
- How long will it take to acquire PPE?
- What local resources are available to acquire PPE?
Masks available from ArLA
The Arkansas Library Association is providing masks for library workers at no cost, thanks to the generosity of volunteers. ArLA is accepting online orders for masks, and asks that all requests prioritize the needs of library staff.
Current Infections by County
The timeline for reopening will vary from community to community. The Arkansas Department of Health maintains an updated list of COVID-19 positive test results by county. Areas with higher rates of infection may remain in the earlier phases of reopening longer than areas with a lower likelihood of community spread.
When planning to move from one phase to the next, give staff at least a few days warning (one week if possible) to prepare mentally and physically for the next phase.
Processes for Reopening
During Phases 1 and 2, library administration and staff can begin the processes necessary to reopen the building to the public. Things to accomplish include:
- Cleaning and sanitizing the building
- Checking in materials and preparing to resume circulation of materials
- Development of policy and procedures for staff who need to quarantine or work remotely after reopening.
- The Opening Up America Again Guidelines issued by the CDC and White House indicate that employers should strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population through Phase 2 of the state or regional gating criteria
- The Arkansas Department of Health requires a person exposed to COVID-19 to complete a 14-day quarantine period, even though they may have a negative test result during the quarantine period.
- Determine social distancing processes and prepare building appropriately
- Train staff on safety techniques, new policies, and new service procedures
As libraries prepare to reopen, administrators and staff should keep in mind that it’s not just one’s physical health and well-being that needs to be taken care of, but also one’s emotional and mental well-being. This is a stressful time for everyone, and everyone copes with stress differently.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) provides a free mental health hotline to help to Arkansans 24/7 during the pandemic.
The number for the hotline is 501.526.3563 or toll free at 1.800.482.9921.
Modification of Traditional Library Services
During Phase 3, libraries should reopen to the public with modified or limited services. Areas to consider for modification include programming, service hours, meeting room usage, and lowing maximum capacity threshold of the library.
Ideas for modification of library services:
- Special hours for at-risk populations
- Continuation of library programming online instead of in the library
- Discontinuation of meeting room reservations by the general public
- Removal (or restriction with caution tape) of comfortable seating areas
- Signage posted at all entrances advising the public not to enter if they have fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell, and if they have had known exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
- As programs resume, limit the number of individuals allowed to attend each program
- Prepare for a large number of patrons to be seeking assistance with resume writing and computer assistance as large numbers of Arkansans have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak
Resources for Health and Well-Being
- How to Wear Masks
- Fabric Mask Pattern with Three Layers
- Instructions for No Sew Face Masks
- AR Connect Mental Health Call Center 501.526.3563 or 1.800.482.9921; available 24/7
- Disaster Distress Helpline 1.800.985.5990; Talk with a trained crisis counselor at SAMHSA’s hotline
- Coping with Stress during Infectious Disease Outbreaks
For more information, contact:
- Jennifer Wann
- Manager of Library Development
- email@example.com or (501) 682-5288