Utah Libraries Urged to Follow Governor Herbert’s Stay Safe Stay Home Initiative
By Colleen Eggett, Director, Utah State Library
On Friday March 27 2020, Governor Herbert strongly encouraged all Utahns to Stay Safe Stay Home. He asked Utahns to stay home as much as possible, starting immediately. The voluntary, but highly encouraged directive will be in place through April 13. While only a guideline not a law, it is designed to keep Utah residents healthy and safe. Decision-making for an individual library should always be made at the local level.
Covid-19 is a public health crisis that requires social distancing. Keeping libraries and their computer labs open brings people together, potentially endangering our staff and the very patrons we are trying to serve. The main advice we have to combat Covid-19 is to practice social distancing, sheltering at home, hand washing, and other personal hygiene activities. It is counterproductive to offer the public a place where they can go in groups; that only causes a potential spread of the disease. Remember that this is no longer about public service but about public health.
At this time, 87% of the public libraries in Utah are closed, and the rest are putting initiatives in place to limit social contact. Libraries statewide are shifting our services to online, urging residents to check out e-books and e-audiobooks and a variety of other things through our online resources. If everyone can do their part and allow employees to telework whenever possible it will limit the spread of Covid-19.
According to the NIH, the virus remains detectable "up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel." It is suggested to leave returned materials in quarantine for at least three days, in addition to commonsense and widely publicized general good health practice recommendations to wash hands frequently and wipe down surfaces with antiseptic wipes, and having staff responsible for receiving returned materials wear disposable gloves.
The Utah Academic Library Consortium said, “Libraries have always been essential resources in times of public crisis. We are committed to providing services and resources in the COVID-19 crisis. Closing public access to our physical spaces to slow the transmission of the virus is part of the public health solution that will enable our health care system to meet the demand for care.”
We need to take the long view on this. The sooner we can combat the disease through social distancing and telecommuting wherever possible, the sooner libraries will return to normal. I urge all of Utah’s libraries to follow the Governor’s lead in allowing staff to telecommute wherever possible and limit access to open public spaces where the public can gather together in groups.