Whether mandated by the local or federal government or created and enforced by your library, you can guarantee there will be new policies in place before you open your doors again.
If the Covid-19 outbreak has taught us nothing else, it’s that no organization was truly prepared for how quickly a health crisis can bring a community to its knees. Most libraries around the country were quick to shut their doors to help slow the spread of the virus. We are starting to understand a little bit more about how this virus spreads and measures that can be taken to safeguard against it. Now is a perfect time to review some of your library’s policies going forward and some things you can change now to educate your patrons. Here are a few new policy suggestions to consider now and when your library re-opens its doors to the community.
Wash hand signs for toddlers
While most libraries and organizations have signs to remind adults and older kids to wash their hands in the restroom, many do not have something to remind younger children the importance of washing up. Consider adding an eye-level visual for those younger visitors that are not be able to read yet. Perhaps adding some colorful, sparkly, or fruity scented soaps that encourage good hygiene habits.
Healthy hygiene books
Now is the perfect time to put in a call to publishers or place online orders to stock up on reading materials, if they are closed, start doing some research on what’s out there. With schools and libraries closed across the country, we are relying on parents to educate their children about what is happening and how to keep themselves and others safe. Have the resources they need available to educate themselves once your doors open again to the public.
Sanitizer stations and wipes
While many of your libraries have sanitizers around the building now, consider doubling the amount. Strategically place them for your visitors at any high traffic, high touch areas. Next to doors, restrooms, computers, play areas, self-checkouts, vending machines, and reference desks.
Time to replace toys
Discard or replace stuffed animals, puppets, and other toys that are difficult to keep clean. Toys that are made of soft, cloth material, or that have porous surfaces hold more germs and bacteria. Consider replacing these items with toys and games that are easier to keep clean for your staff.
Free lunch day
Consider a no-questions-asked lunch day or dinner night at your library. We often forget that some kids in our community rely on school lunches to eat or come to the library after school to escape an uncomfortable or dangerous situation at home. Hosting a free weekend lunch or weeknight dinner will allow those children both a getaway and a good meal. Consider boxed meals of a sandwich and fruit or ask for a donation from a local restaurant. Your library can continue to help these children after school re-opens by providing additional support in the evenings and on the weekends. Consider also adding canned foods into the free libraries for less fortunate families.
Teachers have done a great job of putting together materials for their students’ last minute. Is there something your library could do to help with teaching resources, whether it be bags of books by age group, donating reading materials into the free libraries around town, or asking local schools for age-appropriate printable packets for children to keep on hand at your library? This may not fall under the category of a new policy, but it sure would be helpful.
Chat with librarians
Encourage patrons to chat questions and communicate with your library via Messenger on your Facebook page. Some of your staff may not get work emails on their phone. With Messenger, administrators on your Facebook page are able to get notified when a patron reaches out and anyone available can assist them.
Masks and gloves for older patrons
For many states across the country, this will be a mandatory new policy. Provide complimentary vinyl gloves and face masks for older patrons to make them feel comfortable. Consider how this pandemic will affect their habits going forward.
These are just a few ideas that have come up as more organizations and businesses are closing their doors. We are all in unfamiliar territory and who knows what to expect in the coming months. This experience will change how we do things going forward. Now is the best time to review how we can take care of patrons and put new policies in place. In the meantime, continue hosting those great virtual events! We would love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the ideas your staff have discussed to change procedures, events, and the sharing of knowledge or information going forward?