Post by Jason Broughton on Stay at Home Orders - 3/24/20, 12:30 pm
Good afternoon everyone,
Because this question appeared on the listserv as a reply all, I will address my thoughts to everyone on the executive order by Governor Scott. I do not always plan to answer questions in this format, as this outbreak and coronavirus situation requires lots of connections and planning to ensure public safety, health and wellness, and COVID-19 mitigations to ensure Vermonters are prepared.
Nancy’s question is very important to me and I wanted to provide information and suggestions on how to navigate this question as things will certainly change throughout today and tomorrow.
Each library director, library board of trustees, and officials from the community which you serve, must consider operations for employees and the community to diminish the spread of contagion during this time. As your State Librarian & Commissioner of the Department of Libraries, our department is focused on providing accurate information that will allow those in positions of leadership and authority to make the most informed decisions. These can be difficult choices that must be made for any director and board. The Department of Libraries and the State Librarian has no jurisdiction to close libraries. These choices must be completed at the local level with information that offers context for the situation at hand. If the question is, “should all of the libraries in Vermont close,” I can’t make that call. If you are asking should libraries consider paying attention to the executive order that was given by the Governor and how best to implement it within your library, then here is where I can offer input.
Libraries must examine the actions in the executive order through a variety of health and mitigation situations related to COVID-19. These should include the safety of the library employees, the demographics of the library staff and community with regards to those with health concerns, and age-related considerations. Once this is examined, can the library function as normal in the current situation? If not, then those who oversee the library must make plans to decide how to operate in a limited capacity. Some libraries have decided to close and operate in virtual outreach capacity to the community. Others have completely closed with no services to the community. Tasks, services, and actions must be viewed through impacts to health and wellness in all operations. If it cannot be done, it is recommended and strongly suggested that the library close, but work to offer virtual services, if applicable.
Sadly, there is a financial impact to all of this as well. This will become evident in the near future. It is important to also consider how this impact will affect services and how to move forward. But, this should be kept in mind and not be the main focus of what is needed at this moment. The Department will soon connect you to a variety of resources to help you consider financial aspects, human resources-related topics, and operations planning. These will be offered online and free of charge.
While this may not provide a concrete answer for you, I hope it provides guidance that will help make tough decision easier during this time, through the lens of health, public safety, and the good of the community.
With all the best,