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Staying Safe in Public Libraries during COVID-19

As public libraries are opening up again, people are returning to their routines of studying, borrowing and returning books, researching, and other things done in a public library, we must stay safe and healthy.

Public libraries do follow COVID-19 safety precautions, but a few things are unique to their setting that must be followed with caution. Wondering what they are? We’re here to walk you through.

Public libraries planning and communication

Public libraries are what they are – public. Therefore, the library services, workforce, and trade unions must come together and plan the essential steps in ensuring that the work environment is safe and identify the means through which emergencies can be mitigated. Public library management should take proper measures before opening and inviting the public to use the libraries again.

Hygiene-specific measures

In accordance with the workplace-specific measure to promote hygiene in public spaces, the public libraries should consider the following;

Good hand hygiene

Adequate hand hygiene facilities like handwashing stations and hand sanitizers should be made available at different strategic areas in the libraries – from entry and exit points, reception desks, to study sites and staff areas. It should be accessible to all staff and visitors alike. Instructions that remind library users to make use of these facilities should also be provided.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Cleaning of the library should be top-notch. Furniture, facilities, restrooms, bookshelves, check-out areas, and every place that people come in contact with should be adequately cleaned and disinfected regularly. Professional disinfecting and sanitizing companies like SafeFromSpread can also be hired to ensure maximum sanitization and disinfection results.

Store returned books separately

A separate section of the library should be allotted to returned books, so they are ‘quarantined’ before being put back on shelves. Placing returned books in ‘isolation’ is necessary to reduce the spread of the virus if the book user has contaminated the book. All returned books should be separated for at least 72 hours (3 days). Returned books should also not come in physical contact with library staff. Trolleys and drops can be used to transport books to the labeled ‘quarantine’ area.

More IT equipment, less physical handling of books

As much as possible, public libraries should discourage the handling of books by users or visitors. The regular inspection of books before rental or use should be prohibited for now. Besides, if your public library hasn’t started using IT equipment for screening and self-serving purposes like scanning and printing, then you should consider requesting it. These machines will reduce the risk of public users getting infected with the virus.

Physical distancing

An essential aspect of a library reopening plan should be physical distancing. Public libraries should make digital services provisions for users who don’t necessarily have to get the services they want physically.

For those who compulsorily have to be at the library in person, library staff should ensure that the physical distancing of 6 feet is maintained. Physical distancing shouldn’t be restricted to visitors alone, but the employee and volunteers as well.

Non-essential furniture can also be removed to provide more space in the library and minimize contact between patrons. Distinctive signage clamoring for physical distancing should also be placed in strategic areas of the library.

Shift between staff

The library services and volunteer services should re-strategize into shift patterns to protect the workforce from the spread of COVID-19. The staff should be divided into different teams to work on separate shifts and rotate from time-to-time to ensure that everyone stays safe while working.