Not to add too much to your already full messaging about COVID-19, but here is a library spin for you.
Yesterday (among other countries) Denmark shut down all schools, universities, and public libraries (https://www.thelocal.dk/20200311/denmark-to-shut-all-schools-and-universities-to-fight-virus). While this tactic hasn’t happened in Canada or Ontario yet, it cannot hurt to be prepared.
FOPL highly recommends that you dust off your disaster/emergency plans and business interruption strategies and review them in this new context. This should be on your next management and board meetings agenda (if it isn’t already!). As always, check out LearnHQ and Governance Hub for library emergency and disaster planning resources (https://resources.learnhq.ca/library-space-and-facilities/emergency-and-disaster-planning)
While it’s an old cliche, every cloud has a silver lining, our sector should also look for the opportunities in this emerging pandemic crisis.
Here’s a short list, please feel free to add more in the comments and we can create a crowd-sourced file of ideas:
- Ensure all staff, including any recent hires, are aware of your emergency policies and communication plans. Update contact lists if needed.
- It is likely that your busiest ‘branch’ is your e-branch / website. Now is the time to ensure that your remote access is working well in case your staff are working from home. Since more than 50% of our public library traffic is digital, it is vital that we continue to serve our patrons who may be in self-isolation or just choosing to avoid public spaces.
- Consider drafting a library member/cardholder notice and choosing your social media strategy and website announcements to keep your community aware of the status of your system. Be ready to communicate.
- Brainstorm what services are well-prepared and ready for physical full or partial.closures. These can include e-books, e-magazines, audio-book downloads, digital archives and vaults, e-learning, etc. Customize these to your system’s collections and services. During the duration of any closure, market the tops off of these resources! We guarantee that it will pay off in long term awareness and usage.
- Are there resources that would like for your community that you’ve been unable to afford? You may achieve some saving in your budget due to shorter or longer closures. Consider ensuring that your programs continue to be offered – maybe through digital learning using tools like WebEx. Consider the role a trial license or annual license to things like Gale Courses, Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning, etc.
- For those of you who have experienced a bedbug infestation, the COVID-19 fears may be worse. Consider being public about your cleaning and preparations for ensuring that your staff and patrons are safe in your branches. Get in front of the fears. Our sector is at risk of gate-count decreases.
- If you haven’t already, ensure that the signage about hand-washing for 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice) is educational and fun as well as not just in your washrooms. Public Libraries are critical public infrastructure and have a key role to play in public education. Try to ensure a factual, high quality, and light touch (don’t engage in fear-mongering) by occasionally adding public library-centric social media posts about this issue.
- Use the evil misinformation sites about COVID-19 / Coronavirus as an opportunity to teach, inform and do programs to engage youth and all library members in good information literacy habits. This can be done anytime whether closures are considered or not.
We have admirable management teams in place in our public library systems and are, of course, already preparing. I hope these ideas, help you out too.
Stephen Abram, MLS, FSLA
Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Public Libraries