Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

FOPL is asking for clarification and guidance on building occupancy for re-opening for  most non-urban library systems in Ontario. None seems forthcoming in any direct sense.  I’ve scoured the province’s resources but can find no specific direction.  It may be that every situation is so unique that even broad guidance is too difficult.

This is where your CEO/Management team/Board can create local and safe occupancy rules that can adapt to the changing conditions though the summer and autumn and align with the broader guidance and rules.  Every library would be well advised to:
1. Prepare a proposal for their medical officer and seek their advice/approval. To do this you would need to:
  • Know the original legal occupancy limits of your branches. (Note these are basically fire code limits and have less relevance to the pandemic context.)
  • Calculate the space available for post-Covid opening uses (for example meeting rooms might be closed or used for materials storage and quarantine; staff areas are restricted, some areas/services might be closed).
  • Every branch in Ontario may be quite different in terms of detail and community elasticity.
  • I have seen various estimates of 3 to 5 people per 1000 sq. ft. for retailers.  However these have been mere guides and not rules.  Note: People includes all people (e.g. staff & patrons using public areas.)
  • In an abundance of caution, medium to large-sized branches might be OK with the 10 person gathering rule for quick-service options and another rule for on site usage like PCs.  We expect shelf browsing will arrive as well in another phase.  Small libraries need to be more restricted, even in the safer zones.
  • If you have mo;re than one branch, you’ll likely consider opening branches in phases, moving PC terminals to other branches and placing them six feet apart.  This would affect the occupancy limits since computer use may affect occupancy if it’s heavily used, uses meeting rooms and more space, and/or doesn’t impact inside returns/holds pick-up, etc.
  • Consider classes of visitors – i.e. PC and WiFi users stay longer while circulation is in and out. Consider appointments for some services with the options of in person, telephone, Zoom, etc.
I would also consider following the metaphor rule and look at what is in place in other sectors.
Some local policy hints from the Provicncial Stage 2 Guidance would be:
” Regardless of where you live in Ontario, social gathering limits will be expanded to up to 10 people. People must still practice physical distancing, by keeping at least two metres away from others outside of their direct household. This change to social gathering size will apply to people across the province, regardless of whether their region has moved into Stage 2.”
” To support places of worship to reopen across the province and help to ensure the safety of worshippers, the government will make available guidance, including limiting attendance to 30 per cent of building capacity and practicing physical distancing.”
“Businesses should also consider operating by appointment and/or recording each patron’s name and contact information for the purpose of contact tracing.”
“Establishments must take appropriate measures to ensure physical distancing of at least two metres between patrons from different households, including:
o Using reservations.
o Limiting number of patrons allowed in the outdoor space at one time.
o Ensuring enough space between tables, including to allow for movement.” (restaurants)
Malls:  “Malls may need to institute the policies that were put in place by retail outlets that remained open as essential businesses or were permitted to reopen during Stage 1, including engineering and administrative controls, such as:
o Alternative operating hours to address increased cleaning demands.
o Enhanced security and limiting entrances.
o Creation and enforcement of walking traffic patterns.
o Operating by appointment or reservation.
o Limiting the number of people who may be in one business at any one time.
o Restricting fitting room access and implementing cleaning process between fitting room customers.
o General building management, including signage and hand sanitizer at the entrance of the building, and removing gathering settings (e.g., benches).”
“Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, outdoor heritage institutions (e.g., landmarks, outdoor historic sites, botanical gardens), and other establishments primarily engaged in preserving and exhibiting objects, sites and natural wonders of historical, cultural and educational value are permitted to reopen with restrictions.
• Interactive and high-contact exhibits, amusement parks, water parks and conference centres will remain closed in Stage 2.
• Lockers will remain closed.
• The opening of commercial areas (e.g., restaurant, cafe, bookshop, giftshop) are subject to the related guidelines and restrictions.
• Persons in the place of business shall maintain physical distancing of at least two metres from each other at all times by:
o Timed entry.

o A limited number of visitors allowed in a place at one time.

o Managed visitor flow (e.g., one-way flow).
• Establishments should consider operating by appointment and/or record each patron’s name and contact information for the purpose of contact tracing.”
“Small Outdoor Events
Non-essential in-person gatherings of any size continue to be strongly discouraged.
Small outdoor events, such as cultural celebrations, animal shows and fundraisers will be permitted in line with gathering-size restrictions, subject to local public health requirements.
• Event organizers should have in place measures to enable physical distancing for people when in the event space and while waiting to enter, such as one-way traffic, marked lineup areas, and timed entry and length of stay.
• Large outdoor events, such as concerts, large festivals, parades and amusement fairs, are not permitted.”
“Libraries All libraries can reopen with limited on-site services, such as computer access and contactless book pickup and drop-off.
• Patrons are not permitted to handle books or materials on shelves.
• Libraries should operate in adherence with public health guidelines on physical distancing, capacity and hygiene procedures (e.g., disinfecting returns and high-touch areas like computers).”
“Community centres can reopen to the public with limited or modified on-site programs and services that follow workplace guidance and public health advice.
• Recreational activities are restricted at indoor facilities, but these spaces can be used for other programs and services.
• Examples of physically distanced programs and services include in-person counselling, group counselling, computer access, education and tutoring.
• Food services are restricted to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining spaces.
• Indoor pools may open (see water recreational facilities).
• Access to locker rooms, change rooms, showers and communal kitchen areas is not allowed.”
There’s what I know so far.