Reopening Libraries: Smart Strategies for a Healthy Restart at ALA Virtual Conference

Today I attended a session of ALA Virtual Conference about reopening libraries with two speakers.

The first speaker, George Coe, is head of Brodart, an important company for library supplies. The second speaker was Dana Hollins, an Industrial Hygienist. (Who knew this field existed? She’s a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.)

George Coe told about their experiences of shutting down and reopening at Brodart, but to me that didn’t really apply to the issues libraries face. They had to reconsider their workflow procedures to be able to apply social distancing. The most relevant information is that they have added helpful supplies to their inventory such as face masks and wipes. So now these can be ordered through a library supplier. They also made some book lists for libraries that are appropriate for the times.

The talk by Dana Hollins, however, was very relevant. I didn’t realize that a document exists with guidelines for reopening. It’s at Scroll down to find the library document. This is intended to be a living document, so do send any feedback to the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

I’ll continue with the points I jotted down from her talk:

Considerations before reopening:
Stay in touch with your local health department.
Consider conducting a Hazard Assessment.
Think about the different activities and services.
The main route of transmission is person-to-person droplets, so you want to minimize close personal contact.
Communicate to library patrons, and train staff to communicate as well.
Ease back into operation in phases, and re-evaluate at each stage.

Steps to minimize a hazard:

Switch to virtual events.
Encourage staff to work from home where possible.
Consider customer screening such as temperature checks.
Encourage staff to stay home if not feeling well. Encourage customers to do the same (with signs).
Post signs at the library entrance and throughout the library.

Separate work locations or use plexiglass.
Increase ventilation/fresh air where possible.
Increase filter efficiency.
Install or use Portable HEPA Filtration Units
Limit personal fan use.

Consider staggering shifts or limiting the number of patrons in the library.
Maintain physical distance.
Limit personal contact.
Evaluate/change work practices.
Encourage personal hygiene (hand washing).
Enhance cleaning and disinfecting.
Isolate book returns. (72 hours is great.)

Wear disposable gloves when disinfecting surfaces. (This is to protect you from the disinfectant chemicals, not from the virus.)
Wear face coverings.

In the Q&A session, a few more points came up:

They’re most concerned about hard nonporous surfaces. Things that people touch or where they breathe should get cleaned.

The virus can’t go through skin. So keep good hand hygiene. Face shields are an option if you can’t wear a mask.

Someone asked about magazines, and she repeated the quarantine advice of 72 hours as the best way to deal with paper. (This is problematic for magazines.)

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