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Stage 1: Preparing the Staff, Collections, and Facility for Return to Service

Library boards, in consultation with their library director will determine locally when to advance to each stage within the yellow phase (as staffing levels and supplies will allow). Additional guidance may be issued by the commonwealth as conditions warrant.

Topics: Communications | Facility | General Operations | Staff


1. Verify adequate supplies are available. Consider coordinating with nearby libraries, systems, or districts:

1.1. Masks.
1.2. Cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
1.3. Hand sanitizer.
1.4. Tissues.
1.5. Gloves.
1.6. Thermometers.

2. Staff returns to building. Those who can telework must do so wherever feasible. Consider:

2.1. Identifying staff who are able to return to work.
2.2. Identifying staff duties and roles to develop a return to work plan.
2.3. Developing a staff schedule with staggered shifts to limit contact with others.
2.4. For libraries with branches or bookmobiles, determine which facilities can be staffed first (if necessary).
2.5. Whether or not to use volunteers as many are in high-risk groups.
2.6. Extra staff time needed to handle new duties and time needed for:
2.6.1 Hand washing breaks at least once an hour as per commonwealth's guidance for businesses.
2.6.2 Regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces as per PA Building Safety Measure Order.
2.6.3 Receiving and safe handling of returned items.
2.6.4 Retrieving and preparing items for pick-up.
2.6.5 Assisting patrons with new service limitations and requirements.
2.6.6 Monitoring vendor access to building.
2.6.7 Monitoring or limiting public access to building.

2.7. Determine how to handle staff illness or the possibility of staff illness. Consider:

2.7.1 Adjusting leave policies to encourage staff to stay home when sick.(Refer to Families First Coronavirus Response Act non-profit employer requirements).
2.7.2 Asking staff daily health screening questions and conducting temperature checks.
2.7.3 Monitoring staff absenteeism.
2.7.4 Limiting in-person meetings that require close contact.
2.7.5 Designating an area where staff who become ill while at work can quarantine until they are able to leave.
2.7.6 Participating in contact tracing if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19.

3. Train/orient staff in new procedures:

3.1. Emphasize that staff should stay home when ill or if exposed to someone who is ill.
3.2. Identify and explain who staff should ask for clarification or additional information.
3.3. Determine and discuss health guidelines to be followed such as:
3.3.1 Enforcement of social distancing.
3.3.2 Proper handwashing.
3.3.3 Universal masking and the handling of masks. Masks not required for individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years). Documentation of such medical condition is not required.
3.3.4 Gloves.
3.3.5 Limit number of people in the building by maintaining social distance of six feet. However, as per commonwealth's guidance for businesses building occupancy must not exceed greater than 50 percent of the number stated on the library's certificate of occupancy.
3.3.6 Prohibit gatherings larger than 25 people at meetings, programs, events, etc. as per the commonwealth's guidance for businesses.
3.3.7 Cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
3.3.8 Safe handling of library materials.
3.3.9 Changes in circulation or other procedures to guard staff and patron health.
3.4. Consider special training for interacting with colleagues and the public in a crisis- or trauma-based situation.
4. Clarify job duties for altered services/shortened hours.


5. Monitor supply stock availability for: masks, gloves, cleaning, disinfecting supplies, etc.
6. Clean high-touch surfaces and set-up schedule for routine cleaning.
7. Provide employees and library patrons with what they need to clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes such as tissues and lined, no-touch trash cans.
8. Require custodial staff to wear gloves when disposing of trash and washing their hands immediately thereafter.
9. Set-up the service desks and other staff/public areas in the library to encourage social distancing as outlined in the commonwealth's guidance for businesses:

9.1. Install sneeze shields of non-porous materials such as plexiglass, plastic, glass, etc.
9.2. Determine where staff will take breaks and eat lunches. Reconfigure furniture and workstations as needed.
Determine where returned items are quarantined.
9.3. Reconfigure furniture, equipment, etc. to limit group interaction and enforce social distancing guidelines (in preparation for stage 3 of the yellow phase).
9.4. Establish traffic patterns (in preparation for stage 3 of the yellow phase).
9.5. Patron spacing such as tape on floor (in preparation for stage 3 of the yellow phase).
10. Contact delivery services and vendors regarding reopening plans.
11. Remove public use toys, board games, and other shared items (in preparation for stage 3 of the yellow phase).
12. Determine what will be the facility entry point and how to limit traffic into facility (in preparation for stage 3 of the yellow phase).

General Operations

13. Update human resources, library services, and patron behavior policies as needed.
14. To prepare for possible future closures, update policies and procedures as needed.
15. Establish and implement a plan in case the library is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, according to the commonwealth's guidance for businesses, to prepare for stages 2 and 3 of the yellow phase.

Stage 1: Services

16. Determine how patrons will return library materials:

16.1. Return bins.
16.2. Returns made by patrons handing items directly to staff ("Why You Shouldn't do Curbside During COVID-19" Library Journal, April 22, 2020).

17. Determine how you are handling disinfection and quarantine periods for materials that have been returned or handled by patrons (See Appendix 1: Safe Handling of Physical Materials).

18. Determine how you are handling:
18.1. Loan limits, periods, and due dates.
18.2. Fines and fees.
18.3. Hold requests, hold limits, and hold request periods.
18.4. Sanitation and cleaning requirements.
18.5. Building security.
18.6. Payments by cash, credit card or online transactions.
19. Update website with service information, integrated library system settings, interlibrary loan, and other software or technology, as needed.
20. Determine what online services and programming (such as exterior Wi-Fi access) will continue.
21. Begin planning for public services:
21.1. Determine how patrons obtain library materials in stages 2 and 3 of the yellow phase:
21.1.1 Stage 2: Mail.
21.1.2 Stage 2: Pick-up service via curbside, lobby area, or bookmobile (See example: Hennepin County Library procedures for contactless curbside pick-up service).
21.1.3 Stage 3: Patrons visit library.
21.1.4 Stage 3: Patrons visit bookmobile (as long as social distancing can be maintained).
21.2. Determine operating hours. Consider:
21.2.1 Extra time staff needed due to social distancing limitations and/or cleaning requirements.
21.2.2 Restarting service may result in unusually high returns, phone calls, questions from staff and public.
21.2.3 Designating special hours for high-risk patrons as outlined in the commonwealth's guidance for businesses.
21.3. Determine how to handle the following:
21.3.1 Masks for the public. Masks not required for individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years). Documentation of such medical condition is not required.
21.3.2 Returns at public service desks.
21.3.3 Hand cleaning supplies for patrons.
21.3.4 Patron food services (vending machines, cafes, etc.).
21.3.5 Multiple building entrances.
21.3.6 Number of people entering and exiting the building.
21.3.7 Donated library materials.
21.4. Plan for future limited, low-contact programming and outreach during stage 3 in the yellow phase.
21.4.1 Develop a written health and safety plan for youth service programs that uses applicable recommendations from the CDC Consideration for Youth and Summer Camps.
21.4.2 Limit the mixing of children, perhaps through staggered arrival or pick-up times and activities. Consider keeping groups of children in separate rooms or spaces. If possible, include the same group members and staff providers during scheduled youth service programs.
21.4.3 Limit direct contact between caregivers and staff members during drop-off or pick-up times for youth service programs, being sure to adhere to social distancing recommendations of six feet.


22. Post reopening dates and service adaptations to social media and website. Issue news release.
23. Post the library's health and safety plan for youth service programs on the library's publicly available website prior to providing in-person services to children.
24. Prepare and post employee/patron signage. (Place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both patrons and employees). All libraries must print, sign, and post the commonwealth's 'COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses' flyer on their premises both in employee common space and near the public entrance.

24.1. COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Business flyer – English 8.5X11-inch (PDF).
24.2. COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Business flyer – English 8.5X14-inch (PDF).
24.3. COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Business flyer – Spanish 8.5X11-inch (PDF).
24.4. COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Business flyer – Spanish 8.5X14-inch (PDF).
25. Resume vendor and delivery services.

25. Resume vendor and delivery services.