On Monday of this week, Governor Abbott identified libraries and museums in his announcement of the businesses and services that would begin to reopen in Texas May 1. The governor specified that local libraries and museums would open at 25 percent capacity at the discretion of their local governments. The directive specifies that interactive components of libraries and museums can remain closed to the public.
Since Gov. Abbott’s order was released Monday, we have received many contacts from libraries with questions such as, how can a library open in a manner that is safe? What does 25 percent capacity mean? Are ordinary books on the shelf considered interactive?
In response to those many contacts and questions by local librarians, Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and staff of the Library Development and Networking Division developed a resource guide to reopening libraries which can be found on the COVID-19 Resources Page developed by the LDN team.
The Resource Guide answers many questions pertaining to Governor Abbott’s order (GA-18). It is important to note the following components of that order:
- libraries may only open if allowed to do so by their local governing authority
- the threshold for occupancy is set at the “up to” 25 percent mark, and
- interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed.
The Resource Guide provides sample reopening plans, questions to consider in reopening, and lists of materials and resources helpful to libraries planning to reopen. Among the questions that library directors can discuss with their governing authorities are whether the library’s hours can be limited or changed? Does time need to be allowed to disinfect materials and surfaces? Could the library maintain special hours for at-risk populations? What should be considered “interactive” and not made available to the public?
These are complex decisions that will require discussion with local governments. And they are questions that we at TSLAC have been grappling with along with all other libraries. We look forward to resolving these questions and eventually beginning to provide services while observing social distancing, face coverings, and other ways to ensure the safety of our staff and our public as they access these services that the governor has acknowledged as one of the most important services in our society.
Links in this post:
Governor Abbott’s Open Texas Plan (libraries and museums, see pp. 35-36) – https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/orgnization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf
TSLAC Reopening Libraries: Resource Guide – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/ldn/COVID/TSLAC_Return_to_Work_Libraries_Resources_2020.pdf
COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers – https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/covid-19