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 recommends that everyone wear face coverings in public.
- 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
Timelines 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
- Determine social distancing processes and prepare building appropriately
- Staff training on safety techniques 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.
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 (including Summer Reading Programs), service hours, meeting room usage, and lowing maximum capacity threshold of the library.
The Arkansas State Library will be providing a license to READsquared for every public library in the state to provide a virtual Summer Reading Program experience for library patrons. For additional information about READsquared, contact Ruth Hyatt, Coordinator of Youth Services.
Ideas for modification of traditional 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; and
- 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 Planning
- Utah Libraries Plan for Moving Towards Full Service
- Missouri Libraries Reopening Guidelines, April 2020
- Beaufort County Library (SC) Pandemic Reopening Plan
- American Libraries: Reopening: Not When? But How?
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
- COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning
Resources for Health and Well-Being
- Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
- Fabric Mask Pattern with Three Layers
- Instructions for No Sew Face Masks
- Disaster Distress Helpline 1.800.985.5990; Talk with a trained crisis counselor at SAMHSA’s hotline
- Coping with Stress during Infectious Disease Outbreaks
- How to Safely Remove Gloves, Montana State Library, starring Joann Flick
- AR Department of Health Directive on Summer Camps
- American Libraries: Digital Escape Rooms and Other Online Programming
WiFi in Library Parking Lots
The American Library Association (ALA) recommends that public libraries should leave WiFi networks on and available to the public during closures due to COVID-19. On February 23, 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice confirming that community use of E-Rate supported WiFi networks is permitted during school and library clousures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Public K-12 Schools in Arkansas are closed to on-site instruction through the end of the school year. WiFi available in library parking lots provides a key resource for students and families to complete school activities during this time.
The Arkansas State Library maintains a spreadsheet and map of publicly available, free WiFi available in library parking lots throughout the state of Arkansas. Information is self-reported by the individual libraries. Library patrons are encouraged to access these sites from within a parked vehicle.
Some academic institutions also provide WiFi in parking lots.
For more information, contact:
- Jennifer Wann
- Manager of Library Development
- email@example.com or (501) 682-5288