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Closing and Reopening Guidance

Updated 5/15/2020

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 (PDF), 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. 

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 (PDF)
    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?

A list of yellow phase counties may be found at: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#PhasedReopening

Reminder of Guidance for Red Phase Libraries

Consistent with the Governor's order to close Pennsylvania schools indefinitely, 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 reminds public 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.

Libraries closed under these circumstances will not jeopardize their eligibility for Public Library Subsidy support.

This means:

  1. Library operations that provide routine, in-person library services shall cease indefinitely.  Routine, in-person library services would be anything that requires an individual member of the public to visit the library or library staff/volunteers to have in-person contact with library users to provide anything that could be construed as routine library services.  Examples of library services that may not be provided include permitting library users to:

  • Browse, read, or view materials at the library;
  • Borrow or pick up items at the library (including drive-by or curbside pick-up);
  • Use computers or other technology devices inside the library;
  • Attend programs or meetings sponsored by the library or external groups at the library;
  • Have library materials physically delivered to library users; or
  • Photocopy and fax materials, etc.
  1. Operations requiring personnel to be situated in the library for activities such as administrative or other non-public services shall cease indefinitely.

  2. Tasks requiring essential personnel to visit the library to sustain facility integrity, security of collections, or continuity of operations (e.g. such as preparing and issuing payroll checks/deposits or paying urgent invoices) must be restricted to the absolute minimum number of people necessary.

  3. Any employee deemed essential for the completion of necessary tasks in Number 3 above shall at all times carry out their duties consistent with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines on social distancing.

There are two exceptions to this directive:

  1. A public library may work in cooperation with local emergency management officials to provide essential services needed by the community (e.g. food distribution, blood donations, etc.).  In such an instance, the library may remain open with essential personnel to provide these services but not for any other purposes than those referenced in Number 3 above.
  2. A public library may serve as a polling site. In such as instance, the library may remain open with essential personnel to receive supplies, prepare the space, and monitor the polling operation on Voting day, but not for the purposes of other routine, in-person public services.  Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of State is developing safety guidance for polling staff and facilities.

Notify RA-EDEmergencyResponse@pa.gov of the purpose for remaining open due to work with an emergency management agency. Provide the name of the person serving as the library's point of contact, their title, email address, and phone number during the time when essential services are being provided.

Additional guidance, as circumstances warrant, will be shared on this page and via our statewide email distribution lists.