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​May 15, 2020

Framework for Reopening Libraries – Now Available

Consistent with Governor Tom Wolf’s process to reopen the commonwealth and the Public Library Code which grants the Deputy Secretary for Libraries the power and duty to "coordinate a Statewide system of local libraries" (24 PA.C.S. § 9311(b)(5)), the Office of Commonwealth Libraries directs public libraries to prepare plans to reopen for limited public service. 

Once those plans are complete, and the local library board and director can provide assurances that the library adheres to all federal and state guidelines, including the Office of Commonwealth Libraries’ new Framework for Reopening Libraries, libraries located in commonwealth-designated Yellow Phase counties may open for limited public service on a date that is determined by the local library board.  

District Library Center staff and System administrators shall be consulted to advise and assist libraries with local plan development.

In all cases, local library reopening plans should prioritize the health and safety of both staff and the public. We strongly encourage library directors to communicate with your full staff as soon as possible so that they understand what safety measures the library is taking, and what staff can do to protect their own health.

When developing plans, libraries shall:

  • Work cooperatively within their county and/or district to ensure safe and consistent policies, practices and reopening dates.
  • Be familiar with and implement all state and federal guidelines that apply to community organizations and businesses, including:

    1. Office of Commonwealth Libraries Framework for Reopening Public Libraries
    2.  Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate during the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public (PDF)
    3. Order of the Secretary of Health providing for business safety measures (to keep employees and customers safe)
    4. Order of the Secretary of Health providing for building safety measures
    5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
    6. CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
    7. CDC Interim Guidance for Community and Faith-Based Organizations
    8. State Library of Pennsylvania – Cleaning and Disinfecting Library Materials

As stated in the Governor’s Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate during the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public (PDF):

No business [library] is required to conduct in-person operations and should not do so if the business [library] is unable to do so in accordance with this guidance. Businesses [libraries] permitted to conduct in-person operations that are unable or unwilling to comply with these requirements may engage in curbside delivery to customers so long as strict social distancing and other mitigation measures are followed. 

Businesses [libraries] that cannot attain social distancing are not permitted to conduct in-person operations until the county in which the business is located transitions to the Green Phase, when the building safety and business safety orders are lifted.

What Counties are Designated as Yellow?

Currently, the following counties have moved from red to yellow: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, and Westmoreland. On Friday, May 22, 2020, 12 more counties will move from red to yellow, including: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York. 

Reminder of Guidance for Red Phase Libraries

For those libraries located in counties designated red by the commonwealth that they are to remain closed until further notice is given. Any library that reopens before being designated as yellow by the commonwealth risks placing their operations and community at risk. 

As Governor Wolf stated on May 11, 2020, organizations that reopen for business that are located in red--designated counties are “at risk of losing your certificate of occupancy…and by opening before the evidence suggests you should, you are taking undue risks with the safety of your customers.”  Further, he continued, organizations that “ignore the law and the welfare of their customers will probably find themselves uninsured. Because, insurance does not cover things that happen to businesses breaking the law.”

New Institute for Museum and Library Services Grants Available

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $15 million to the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support the role of museums and libraries in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.  Grant amounts range from $25,000-$500,000.  The deadline to apply is June 12, 2020.  Learn more about the IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries at the IMLS website.

Information and Questions

Information and future guidance will be announced as soon as it is available via our statewide email distribution lists and on our Guidance and Resources for Public Libraries website.  This page has links to:

Questions about COVID-19 issues should be directed to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s emergency response account at:

Glenn R. Miller, Deputy Secretary & Commissioner for Libraries