Creating New Policies for Your Library in the Wake of COVID-19

March 23, 2020 — Libraries, Organization Management

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 of the libraries around the country were quick to shut their doors around the same time that their school systems closed to help slow the spread of the virus. As we start 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 suggestions to consider now and when your library re-opens its doors to the community.

  1. 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 a visual graphic at their eye level for those younger visitors that may not be able to read yet. Perhaps adding some colorful, sparkly, or fruity scented soaps that catch their eye and encourage good hygiene habits.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 these 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.
  6. Teaching resources – 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?
  7. 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.
  8. Masks and gloves for older patrons – 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 and 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. We would love to hear your thoughts. What are some things (if any) your library has discussed to change procedures, events, and the sharing of knowledge or information in the future?