As of 1 May, governments have started planning to ease restrictions on services, with the Northern Territory announcing the reopening of public library services from 15 May. We anticipate greater clarity in the coming weeks about when libraries may be able to ease restrictions on services and reopen fully. While government can make broad statements about libraries reopening, the details will need to be carefully planned by library managers to mitigate any remaining risks for staff and library users. Reopening will not mean going back to the way things were pre-COVID-19; it will mean putting in place the ‘new normal’ approach to library services.
This is the opportunity for libraries to prioritise their existing services and refocus investment on the services which are most highly valued by users. Some services which have been established for the duration of the pandemic will need to be removed as they will be redundant; there will no longer be the capacity to deliver them, or they will no longer be permissible. However, other innovations will most likely become part of normal service.
In practical terms, there will need to be a greater focus on the safe handling of items for borrowing and display. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, OCLC and Battelle in the US are collaborating to develop an evidence-based approach to safe reopening practices, providing information about how to handle materials, training and cleaning in libraries.
The International Federation of Library Associations is also gathering information about the strategies that libraries around the world are taking, as they plan to reopen their libraries.
Each library will have its own plans for reopening, depending on the sector and the specific needs of the library’s community, but the checklist provides a practical framework which outlines major considerations that library managers should be addressing, when planning to reopen their library.