LIBRARY OPENING & SERVICE PHASES DURING PANDEMIC 

 

The COVID 19 virus has had an unprecedented impact on libraries and the communities they serve. This plan seeks to explore several possible reopening scenarios, each dependent on factors such as recommendations from local and national health agencies, social distancing protocols, and critical community needs. The primary consideration in this plan is maintaining the safety of library patrons and staff while finding ways to provide necessary services that the library is uniquely positioned to perform. The most likely scenario may be a scaled reopening with an incremental easing of physical distancing measures.

 

In any of the scenarios the Library could implement the following:

 

•   Improved hygiene procedures for cleaning and disinfecting common areas.

•   Allowing staff to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves while administering public services.

•   Continuing to allow teleworking where it makes sense from an operational standpoint.

•   Encourage or require testing of staff for the virus and/or for immunity to the virus.

•  Messaging and plans should be in place to encourage the most vulnerable populations to limit their time in the community and/or allow for service hours that accommodate their needs more specifically.

 

How do we acquire the hygiene materials needed for opening?

 

Finding hygiene materials is a major issue due to worldwide shortages. Alcohol based hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are difficult to come by locally and with online orders there is a significant delay. Moreover, health professionals do not recommend that the public produce their own hand sanitizers. Amazon has placed libraries in their priority group for delivery of hygiene materials, but there still may be significant delays in receiving new supplies. 

 

Listed below are possible solutions and preventative measures:

 

•    Check with local janitorial supply vendors or distilleries to see what they have available

•    Order early from online vendors to see if we can have supplies delivered within a reasonable time frame.

•    Cloth masks will be provided for staff that are assigned to work in buildings.

 

Below are a number of reopening scenarios divided by service area. How each is instituted should be determined by local recommendations, what safety measures can be instituted, and the availability of hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment.

 

Each service area is divided into four scenarios demarcating different levels of restrictions:

 

•    Under a Stay at Home Order

•    Gatherings of 10 or Less (strict social distancing recommendations or a modified stay at home order)

       *Assumption that Curbside Service ONLY is used

•    Gatherings of 50 or Less (moderate social distancing recommendations)            

       *Assumption that Library is open to the public with restrictions

•    No Distancing Limits or Restrictions

 

NOTE: Until all restrictions are lifted, ALL employees are required to wear a face covering during work hours while in the library or as a representative of the library.  Coverings, along with gloves, hand sanitizer, and other disinfectant cleaners have been provided to employees by the library.  Employee temperatures will be checked upon entering the library.  All surfaces that staff/patrons have touched will be cleaned hourly.

 

Entrance and Exit into the Building

Restrictions on those coming and going from the building will vary based on the social distancing recommendations currently in place, especially those establishing recommended limits for gatherings.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Entrance to the building would be restricted to staff performing critical operations and staff obtaining supplies needed to work at home.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10 (under curbside service): Staff could resume some desk functions as it pertains to running curbside and other projects within the library.  Staff could potentially work with members of the public on an appointment basis using appropriate distancing procedures and personal protective equipment.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: The library would be open to the public with restrictions. Staff could resume complete desk functions, but the number of people in the building would need to be limited through monitoring procedures during open hours. One entrance would be closed and a library employee would be at the other entrance limiting people into the library. Separate hours for vulnerable populations could be considered.

 

No distancing limits: Entrance to the building would not be restricted, though it may still make sense to establish separate hours for vulnerable populations.

 

 

Faxing/Copy Service

The method for faxing/copy services could be scaled based on the severity of social distancing recommendations.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: No faxing/copy services should take place. Traveling to the library to obtain materials is by and large not an essential service.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Limited faxing/copy services could resume with curbside pickup.  Service would be by appointment only with documents dropped to a box at the door with payment enclosed.  Staff members with proper PPE would retrieve items, perform the service and return the documents and change to the box outside and alert the patron of completion.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Some version of normal faxing/copy services could take place with a limited library re-opening. Limits would need to be imposed on entrance and exit to the building as well as increased hygiene procedures.  Social distancing of 6 ft. would be marked in front of the circulation desk.  Barriers may be needed at the circulation desk to protect staff from patrons.  Face coverings for patrons are encouraged.

 

No distancing limits: Normal services could occur, but depending on recommendations, specialized hours for vulnerable populations could be instituted.

 

 

Holds Pickup

The method for holds pickup could be scaled based on the severity of social distancing recommendations.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: No holds pick ups should take place. Traveling to the library to obtain materials is by and large not an essential service.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Some version of curbside pickup could be instituted with strong limits on staff contact.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Some version of normal hold pickup could take place, but limits would need to be imposed on entrance and exit to the building as well as increased hygiene procedures.  Social distancing of 6 ft. would be marked in front of the circulation desk.  Barriers may be needed at the checkout computer to protect staff from patrons.  Face coverings for patrons are encouraged.

 

No distancing limits: Normal hold pickups could occur, but depending on recommendations, specialized hours for vulnerable populations could be instituted.

 

Materials Handling

Materials handling is one of the most complex areas of operations during a pandemic due to the potential of virus transmission on shared objects such as books and DVDs. Current studies suggest the virus remains present on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard and paper surfaces for up to 24 hours. With this in mind different material types may require different handling or all materials may require quarantine for some period of time. Current recommendations state that using cleaning products such as Lysol, bleach or other disinfectants may not completely remove the virus from surfaces, but a quarantine of items for certain amounts of time will kill the virus.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Book drops should remain closed and materials handling by staff should be at an absolute minimum. Materials returns are considered non-essential travel under a Stay at Home Order.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: At this point, it will be possible to reopen book drops. Book drop interiors will be lined with garbage bags. However, materials returned may need to be quarantined for up to 72 hours before being made available to the public. Staff with proper PPE will empty book drops by removing the garbage bag of books and quarantining the items for 24-72 hours in a designated area of the library before cleaning each item with disinfectant and then being shelved or put into patron circulation. In this scenario it will be necessary to develop protocols for processing materials to be put back into patron circulation or rerouted to other libraries.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: If social distancing is lessened to the point where medium sized gatherings are allowed, the library will be likely to open for select services, including non curbside circulation of materials. The same procedures for disinfecting items and quarantine apply as it did with the gatherings of no more than 10.

 

No distancing limits: If distancing limits are lifted completely, materials handling could commence being done in the usual fashion, though with extra protective measures such encouraging staff to wear gloves during the process of sorting items, shelving materials and checking items out to patrons.

 

Checkouts

Circulation of collections is a core function of the Library, but traditional checkout puts at risk both staff and patrons during a time of virus transition. The goal is to create a balance with restoring this core service and protecting staff and patrons.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Checkouts are limited to electronic services.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Normal checkout procedures could not be managed under this restriction, though in conjunction with curbside hold pickup, some checkouts of physical items could be managed.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Checkouts at the circulation desk would be permitted. Limits would need to be imposed on entrance and exit to the building as well as increased hygiene procedures.  Social distancing of 6 ft. would be marked in front of the circulation desk.  Barriers may be needed at the checkout computer to protect staff from patrons.  Checkout areas would be disinfected regularly. Face coverings for patrons are encouraged. 

 

No distancing limits: Normal checkout could occur, but depending on recommendations, specialized hours for vulnerable populations could be instituted. Staff may still be encouraged to take protective measures such as wearing masks or gloves while assisting patrons depending on state suggestions.

 

Programs

The community views library programs as a core service, but as we have seen, public gatherings have been one of the main methods by which COVID 19 has been transmitted. With that in mind, the Library needs to be highly cautious about when and how it reinstates programming.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Only virtual programs would be allowed under a Stay at Home Order.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Likewise, only virtual programs would be allowed under this guideline.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: The Library may consider hosting physical programs only if strong social distancing measures can be employed and only in cases where attendees have pre-registered. Programs such as storytimes would still be virtual due to the difficulty of enforcing distancing protocols with children.

 

No distancing limits: If all social distancing recommendations are lifted, the Library could return with an active slate of programs.

 

Outreach Visits

Visits to facilities to provide programs or other services help encourage community use of the Library and assist in providing high priority services to the community, but they also pose a transmission risk.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Outreach visits and programs should not occur.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Outreach visits and programs should not occur.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Some outreach visits could occur on a facility by facility basis. This would also depend on the venue where services are being offered. Considerations should include: Is there a way to monitor and control how many people enter the venue? Are there typically more than fifty people inside the venue at any given time? Does the venue predominately serve more vulnerable populations? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be best to forego offering services in these locations until restrictions are fully lifted.

 

No distancing limits: Outreach visits and programs could resume as normal, though with special consideration paid to those that serve vulnerable populations.

 

Home Delivery

Home delivery, in many cases, is the only way in which elderly or sick patrons receive library services. It often plays an important social role as well. In a pandemic, however, it is another vector of exposure for those who are most likely to become critically ill or die from a virus.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: No home delivery services should be offered because they are not classified as essential travel under a Stay at Home Order.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Some home delivery may be possible on a case by case basis with staff employing extra protective measures such as wearing face masks, gloves and ensuring that all distributed materials have been quarantined for an adequate length of time. To some degree, these services may be limited on a case by case basis by individual residential facilities who may impose stricter limits due to primarily housing vulnerable populations. Staff and those receiving services would be required to follow strict social distancing procedures. Materials should be dropped at doorsteps as opposed to being handed to patrons.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Similar to the measures listed above, services could be provided on a case by case basis.

 

No distancing limits: Services could return to normal, but with increased hygiene procedures implemented.

 

Internet Access

Internet access is a critical resource for the community especially during times of economic distress. Patrons require internet access to apply for unemployment insurance, access social services, apply for jobs, and access educational resources. Moreover, internet access can be provided to patrons with a limited amount of danger to patrons and staff.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: The current economic situation creates a variety of critical needs where access to the internet and computers are concerned. Under these restrictions the Library can boost wireless signals at its locations.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Under these restrictions the Library could potentially provide access to computers at a very limited scale by appointment only. Because of the risks to staff and patrons alike, very strict social distancing procedures will need to be applied including demarcating limits for patrons and staff to ensure social distancing, restricting access to other areas of the Library, disinfecting computer stations between uses, and requiring patrons and staff wear proper protective wear.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Under these restrictions it may be possible to allow use of the computer stations in the main part of the library, however, to maintain recommended social distancing every other computer in the lab should either be removed or put out of order/covered and disinfected between uses. Access to computers would need to be limited in conjunction with imposed capacity limits on how many people are present in the Library at any given time.

 

No distancing limits: If distancing recommendations are canceled normal use of the Library’s computer lab could commence with improved hygiene, including supplying access to disinfectant wipes for both patrons and staff.

 

Technology Help

The library is frequently a place where patrons learn how to use various forms of technology. The spread of coronavirus and social distancing impose unique difficulties in providing help with devices and on public computers. Because most technology help requires patrons and staff to be at close quarters, there will be limits on how help can be provided until social distancing recommendations are lifted.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: No physical technology help would be available, except over the phone, through email, through webforms and chat.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Same as above unless a one on one appointment is made and with strict social distancing measures.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Physical technology help can be given with social distancing measures and proper face coverings by both employee and patron.

 

No distancing limits: Normal technology help recommendations could commence with improved hygiene procedures.

 

Materials Processing and Ordering

Processing and ordering of materials is still of importance to keep up with new materials that will be in demand once restrictions are lifted.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Ordering should be focused on digital materials and high demand future releases for physical items. Processing of newly arrived orders should wait until some restrictions are lifted.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: Consider ordering more bestsellers and other high circulation new items in preparation for further lifting of gathering or social distancing recommendations. Processing can occur if it can be done safely while maintaining social distance in work spaces.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Ordering and processing of physical materials will ramp up during this period, though it still may be necessary to process materials in shifts so that social distancing can be maintained within work spaces.

 

No distancing limits: Ordering would continue as normal during this period as budgets allow.

 

Shared Materials in the Library

 Libraries frequently provide access to shared materials to patrons in their spaces ranging from office supplies such as staplers and hole punches to equipment like headphones and VR headsets. The Library also provides a wide variety of in-house games and toys. The risks of these shared items vary widely, but any shared items worn around the head and face or toys which children may put in their mouths constitute a high risk as potential vectors for disease transmission.

 

Under Stay at Home Order: Under this order no shared items would be provided.

 

Gatherings of no more than 10: As under the Stay at Home Order no shared materials would be offered.

 

Gatherings of no more than 50: Some shared materials could be offered under this recommendation, including shared office supplies as long they are disinfected regularly. Shared headphones, VR headsets, toys and games should not be allowed.

 

No distancing limits: Shared office supplies would be allowed, however, as long as the virus continues actively circulating it may be wise to restrict the use of shared headphones, VR headsets and toys.

 

 Approved by the Board of Trustees

May 11, 2020

Contact Info

Harris-Elmore Public Library

328 Toledo St.

P.O. Box 45

Elmore, OH 43416

Phone:  (419) 862-2482

Fax:  (419) 862-2123

Library Hours

Monday - Friday: 9am-5pm

Saturday-Sunday: CLOSED

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