EBIDLA Special Issue

Guidelines on access policies, personnel security, social distancing and sanitation of collections

Editorial, by Ton van Vlimmeren, President EBLIDA


“Setting uniform rules concerning access policies, personnel security, social distancing and sanitation of collections is not an easy task. During and after the Covid-19 crisis, library practices have been, and will be, driven by three factors:

a.) national health regulations, which vary from one country to another within the general framework provided by the World Health Organisation;

b.) risk perception, which is different whether the library is based in Estonia, where half of all hospitalized patients are in the Saare island, or in Italy and Spain;

c.) the size and the arrangement of library spaces, which differs from one library premise to another.

A certain number of countries – Estonia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany (Public Library of Cologne), Italy, others will soon follow – have already produced recommendations and guidelines for handling physical material in libraries. Interestingly enough, if these recommendations are in line as far as basic points are concerned (for instance the 72-hours isolation for books after they are returned), they follow different perspectives on other points. In the Netherlands, detailed instructions concern procedural rules for the different categories of people who access libraries. In Ireland and Italy more emphasis is put on the handling of physical collections. As for Germany, the experience of the Public Library of Cologne is included which focusses on organisational aspects.

The hottest issue is infected book returns after loan; the generalised suggested quarantine for books is normally set at 72 hours (but in Poland quarantine has been extended to two weeks)In Estonia, where library lockdown was belated and state libraries only stayed open with limitations, book circulation takes place with the following procedure: users choose books from catalogues, send their wishes to the library, librarians prepare book packages and leave them in special library rooms close to the library main entrance; in some cases, library use official postal services to deliver items. When books are returned, they are kept untouched for three days (the suggested quarantine for books 72 hours is the time suggested by the World Health Organization) and then re-shelved. (See special issue of April 2020 Newsletter: the EBLIDA Checklist in the face of the Covid-19 crisis)

We hope to offer a useful insight into to the European Library community by providing the texts of the guidelines enacted in four European countries on access policies, personnel security, social distancing and sanitation of collections.”