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Closing and Reopening Guidance

Updated 6/18/2020

Consistent with Governor Tom Wolf's process to reopen Pennsylvania 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 local public library facilities.

In all cases, local library reopening plans should prioritize the health and safety of both staff and the public by using the Office of Commonwealth Libraries' (OCL) Framework for Reopening Libraries (Revised June 5, 2020).

Once reopening plans are complete, and the local library board and director can provide assurances that the library adheres to all federal and state guidelines, libraries located in commonwealth-designated yellow and green phase counties may reopen on a date that is determined by the local library board. 

OCL expects all state-aided libraries located in either a yellow or green phase county to provide services in some fashion from the library's physical location, either on a limited basis (such as curbside pick-up) or as in-person service inside the library by June 30, 2020. If providing service from the library's physical location by June 30, 2020, is not feasible, please discuss the matter with your district library consultant.  Your consultant will then review your library's circumstances with the Office of Commonwealth Libraries.

Publicize Your Library's Reopening

Libraries must update their opening status on the POWER Library website.  Also, libraries should update their websites and library signage to indicate that either 1) reopening plans are underway; or 2) the library is reopening on a specified date. 

County Phase Designations

Visit the COVID-19 Government Resources Guide for Pennsylvanians website to find out what phase your county is in.

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 located in counties designated red are to remain closed until the date on which their county is designated by the commonwealth to move to yellow. 

Any library that reopens before being designated as yellow by the commonwealth risks placing their community and operations at risk.

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

Red phase libraries shall:

  1. Not provide routine, in-person library services. 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. Not require personnel to be located in the library for activities such as administrative or other non-public services.

  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 these tasks shall at all times carry out their duties consistent with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on social distancing (See CDC's Definitions of Commonly Used Terms).

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 the Office of Commonwealth Libraries' statewide email distribution lists.