More Ideas on Reopening Libraries Post-Covid

26 Jul 2020 11:01 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

This is a follow-up to the May 20, 2020 blog post on the reopening of libraries.

After months of working remotely, you may be planning the reopening of your physical operations.

That much dreamed of "return to normal".

Happy happy, joy joy! 

Shared microwaves!

Chit-chat in the elevators! At the coffee machine! In the mailroom!

And all those clients handling and touching the books. And the printer. And the photocopier. And the staplers!

Uh oh.

There is an awful lot to ponder and plan for if you are going to do things smartly and safely and in a way your staff and clients will trust. You want to make that dream turn into something positive.

Two good places to start:

  • the webpage created by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)  COVID-19 and the Global Library FieldOne of the sections is about the reopening of libraries.
  • the Checklist for reopening libraries created by the Australian Library and Information Association which is very practical:

    "Each library will have its own plans for reopening, depending on the sector and the specific needs of the library’s community, but the checklist provides a practical framework which outlines major considerations that library managers should be addressing, when planning to reopen their library."

The Great Library at the Law Society of Ontario has shared a series of resources to help law firms plan their reopening:
"These guides and checklists cover practical return to work considerations from physical distancing and PPE to employee accommodations and communications. As well, we’ve included links to a few recent articles that provide some food for thought on the potential redesign of law firm offices and legal practices in a post-pandemic world."

COVID-19 raises many privacy issues.

Justin Ling published an article in CBA National in June 2020 on Getting Back to Work: Sorting through the many privacy issues as businesses get their workplaces ready.

In it, Éloise Gratton, national co-leader on privacy and data protection at BLG, and David Fraser, partner at McInnes Cooper in Halifax, explain the minefield that employers will be facing as workplaces gradually reopen.  A minefield "where employment, labour, health, and privacy law all meet".

Some of the issues managers will be juggling:

  • How much health-related information can employers ask from their staff?
  • What kinds of technologies can they employ to keep people safe? Contact tracing keycards? Location tracking?
  • Where does the data get kept? For how long? When does it get destroyed?
  • Can much screening can employers impose or recommend? Body temperature checks? Swabs? Serological tests (i.e. blood work)?
  • Can people be told to return to work? What if they are immuno-compromised?
  • If an office does not reopen, does that change the conditions of employment under the employment contract?

Recordings from a recent international symposium on the reopening of research libraries are available.

The event was organized by the International Alliance of Research Library Associations (IARLA) and took place in June:

"IARLA convened an international symposium on 3 June 2020, which explored the plans that research libraries are putting in place to reopen their physical library buildings and reinstate their onsite services in the post-, or continuing-, Covid-19 landscape. The symposium included presentations from speakers in the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Australia, who shared the plans and preparations that they are putting in place for the reopening of their libraries, how these relate to their wider institutional context, and how they correspond with their national and regional experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic."

One of the speakers was Vivian Lewis, University Librarian, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

The international information professional association Special Libraries Association (SLA) recently organized a virtual roundtable What Will Reopening Look Like? Planning, Procedures, and Solutions for Reopening Libraries.

Professionals from government, law, manufacturing, construction, academia, and a variety of other work environments took part.

There was also a chat discussion:

"Chat comments included the following:
  • Library management has created shared documents for each of us to contribute our concerns we have about reopening—everything from hours of operation to what should we do if someone asks to borrow a pen.
  • We’re discussing letting visitors handle materials but going to set those materials aside for 3 days, which means we’re going to need to limit how much we can pull off the shelves for them.
  • Is anyone else considering moving to closed stacks? We are strongly leaning to doing that.
  • We have a new cohort of researchers arriving in September, and I’m thinking of at least starting off with 'curbside' pickup and then slowly allowing browsing (by appointment?).
  • I like the idea of delivery but may pose increased risk to exposure while delivering items to patrons in the building."

The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project is a collaboration between OCLC, an international library services cooperative, the US government agency Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle, an R&D organization.

"This research collaboration will provide information on how long the virus survives on surfaces and how—or if—materials can be handled to mitigate exposure."

"To achieve these goals, the partnership is initiating work on several fronts:

  • Collect, review, and summarize authoritative research that applies to materials commonly found in the collections and facilities of archives, libraries, and museums
  • Ongoing consultation and engagement with a project steering committee, working groups, and other subject matter experts from archives, libraries, and museums
  • Laboratory testing of how COVID-19 interacts with a selection of materials commonly found in archives, libraries, and museums; and identifying methods of handling and remediation
  • Synthesize the above inputs into toolkit resources that support reopening and operational considerations
  • Share project information and toolkit resources through the project website and amplified by member associations and support organizations that serve archives, libraries, and/or museums."

Among other things, it has been investigating how long the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 remains detectable on various library surfaces and materials.

So far, it has looked at:

  • Braille paper pages
  • Glossy paper pages from a coffee table book
  • Magazine pages
  • Children's board book
  • Archival folders
  • Cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth)
  • Cover of softback books
  • Pplain paper pages inside a closed book
  • Mylar protective book cover jackets
  • Plastic DVD cases.

The architecture firm IF_DO, in partnership with Libraries Connected and the UK library association CILIP, has developed a COVID-19 Safer Libraries Guide, available for free download.

It looks at issues such as: 

  • staff safety
  • ventilation
  • safe materials borrowing and return strategies
  • seating
  • décor and signage

Talking of signage, the website Super Library Marketing has a number of suggestions for How to Tackle Library Signage in a Pandemic and Make Visitors Feel Comfortable With Your New Rules:

"When COVID-19 forced libraries to close, library marketing abruptly shifted to digital tactics. But now, as libraries move toward reopening, the debate over signage has returned to professional groups and library staff discussions. Signage is now crucial for communicating new rules about mask-wearing, social distancing, and time limits within physical library spaces."

"In the old days, I would have encouraged staff to use less signage and do more talking with patrons. That’s not possible right now."

"But we can still think strategically about how we place our signage, how it is designed, and how much of it we use. Here are some tips for planning your signage as your library moves toward reopening physical spaces."

It is written from the point of view of public libraries but many of the ideas apply to other kinds of libraries.

U.S. library consulting firm Aaron Cohen Associates recently published a text on its website on ReOpening the Library: Guidelines to Consider.

It has a number of good ideas for starting to think about how to fit library users into their 2-metre little bubbles when institutions re-open:
"Here are ideas on how to approach learning space occupancy and how you can start applying them. We included some strategies to develop a basic up-to-date, fact-based library plan framework. You can use this information to update your library services. And at corporations, colleges or Universities, these guidelines can be used to define collaboration and provide individual work environments."

It also includes a link to a white paper from Steelcase Education for classroom and collaborative spaces.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the COVID-19 Law Lab in association with other major international organizations:

"The COVID-19 Law Lab is a database of laws that countries have implemented in response to the pandemic. It includes state of emergency declarations, quarantine measures, disease surveillance, legal measures relating to mask-wearing, social distancing, and access to medication and vaccines. The database will continue to grow as more countries and themes are added."
"It will also feature research on different legal frameworks for COVID-19. These analyses will focus on the human rights impacts of public health laws and help countries identify best practices to guide their immediate responses to COVID-19 and socioeconomic recovery efforts once the pandemic is under control."
There are legal documents from over 190 countries.

In addition to the WHO, the project involves the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

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