How To Defend Against Ongoing Health Risks At Libraries

Community libraries and libraries in schools or colleges are vital resources for many people to access books and materials to support any research needs—or to simply offer entertainment and a temporary escape from the real world.

Libraries appeal to a diverse range of people and often experience large crowds and visitors who stay for extended periods. To best protect against ongoing health risks like COVID, librarians, library staff, and patrons must take ongoing precautions to limit the spread of illness.

Protecting Library Staff and Visitors From Health and Safety Risks

There are many high-touch surfaces in libraries, including books, shared seating, help desks, and computer keyboards. Further, potentially tight aisles may require visitors and staff to come in close contact when finding the books or resources they need.

There are many questions to consider when exploring how to safely work at or visit a library, including:

  • What are the best ways to protect the health and safety of library employees and patrons while caring for the integrity of the books and other materials?

  • What steps can you take to minimize the risk of disease transmission in libraries?

  • How can people stay safe when navigating high-traffic crowds and shared spaces like restrooms?

With these questions in mind, AIHA has created the Healthier Workplaces: Guidance For LIbraries, 2nd edition guidelines for proven strategies to help protect employees and visitors from the health risks they face.

The guidance documents borrow from the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and expert advice from leading health, government, and academic organizations.

The guidelines include recommendations to protect librarians, library employees, and library patrons, including information on the following key areas:

How library staff can protect themselves and visitors from health risks:

  • Ventilation considerations to improve airflow in the library, including how to position portable or overhead fans.

  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices for commonly used items and high-touch surfaces.

  • Personal hygiene best practices, including how frequently staff should wash their hands.

  • Recommended signage and communication to encourage physical distancing.

How library visitors and patrons can protect themselves:

  • Personal protective equipment recommendations, including whether to wear a face covering or mask at a library.

  • Strategies for limiting the need to use shared materials like pens.

  • Self-monitoring practices and how to know if you should stay home.

Additional Library Health and Safety Resources

To access more help and resources to understand and avoid health risks at libraries, we recommend you explore the following resources and networks.