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​May 5, 2020

Commonwealth Reopening Plans

On April 22, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf announced a process to reopen the commonwealth. The administration plans to categorize reopening into three broad phases: red, yellow, or green.  These designations will signal how counties and/or regions may begin easing some restrictions on work, congregate settings, and social interactions:

  • Red Phase, which currently applies to the whole state, has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, closures of non-life sustaining businesses and schools, and building safety protocols.
  • As regions or counties move into the Yellow Phase, some restrictions on work and social interactions will ease while others, such as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place.
  • The Green Phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay-at-home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health.

Phases will be assigned based on conditions in a county, counties, or region.

This past Friday, May 1, 2020, Governor Wolf announced that 24 counties in the northwest and north-central regions will move from the red phase to yellow phase beginning at 12:01 a.m., May 8, 2020. The 24 counties that will move from red to yellow are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.

What Happens When My County or Region Changes from Red to Yellow?

When a county or region is changes from red to yellow, we anticipate that this will be a signal that library staff may reenter the building to begin preparing the staff, collections and facility for a return to service.

Once those preparations are complete, we expect that libraries in yellow areas will provide limited public services (such as pickup service) provided they adhere to state and federal guidelines, as well as guidelines that will be available later this month in the Pennsylvania Department of Education's (PDE) Framework for Reopening Libraries.

Library Reopening Plans

To support libraries with reopening plans, PDE has drafted a Framework for Reopening Libraries that is based on the Governor's three-phase commonwealth reopening matrix. Using input from district consultants, feedback from district library center leaders, and comments from Pennsylvania Library Association open forums, the framework lists guidelines libraries must abide by to ensure the community's health and safety.  In addition, it also identifies issues that each library may need to consider before reopening. 

Currently, the Framework for Reopening Libraries is under review in PDE and will also need to be approved by the Department of Health (DOH). Unfortunately, we do not know precisely when these reviews will be complete.  While we hope that it will be available before May 8th, this may not be possible.  However, we must wait until DOH's review is complete because its advice and recommendations will add a vital public health perspective that is needed for the successful implementation of each library's reopening plan.

How Should Libraries Prepare?

So that libraries use this time effectively while we await final approval of PDE's Framework for Reopening Libraries, there are three things that libraries should be doing now.

First, if your library hasn't already begun doing so, it should begin drafting local library reopening plans. We encourage each library to work with their district library consultant or system administrator to develop these plans. Then, when PDE's Framework for Reopening Libraries becomes available, each library can finalize its plans by using the framework as a final check.

Second, each library should order supplies that it will need to create a safe environment for staff and patrons. Needed supplies could include:

  1. Masks.
  2. Cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
  3. Hand sanitizer for staff and the public.
  4. Sneeze shields made out of non-porous materials such as plexiglass, plastic, glass, etc.
  5. Tissues.
  6. Gloves.
  7. Thermometers.

To obtain the best pricing possible, we encourage each library to coordinate these orders with nearby libraries, systems, or districts.

Finally, as the basis for all reopening plans, each library must be familiar with and implement all state and federal guidelines that apply to community organizations and businesses. These include:

  1. Pennsylvania Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-Person Operations
  2. Pennsylvania Building Safety Measures
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
  4. CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
  5. CDC Interim Guidance for Community and Faith-Based Organizations
  6. State Library of Pennsylvania - Answers to Frequently Asked Questions - What are recommendations for disinfecting returned library materials?

There is a lot of information contained in these guidelines.  So, take the time now to review them and make sure that your library's local reopening plans rely on the guidance found above.

Thank You

Once again, all I can do is thank you for your patience, continued perseverance, and boundless hope as we move through this crisis. We will come out on the other side of this stronger and wiser than we were just a few short months ago.

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