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COVID-19 Resources for Libraries

A Phased Approach for Safely Reopening Public Libraries

Reopening in each community will be different. We encourage library administrators and boards to work with their city or county government to determine the appropriate time to phase in library services. The following strategies and resources are provided to assist local libraries with their planning efforts in this difficult time.

Reopening plans will include multiple factors including timelines, processes, and the modification of traditional library services. Reopening will also depend on the library’s ability to acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ensure a safe environment for staff and patrons.

Potential Phases for Reopening

Phase 1 – Minimal staff in buildings; buildings closed to the public 
Phase 2 – Most staff return to work in buildings; building still closed to the public
Phase 3 – Limited public service restored
Phase 4 – Full service restored

Timeline Considerations 

Availability of PPE should be an important consideration in any reopening decision. The Arkansas Department of Health recommends that everyone wear face coverings in public. The Arkansas Library Association is providing masks for your library workers at no cost, thanks to the generosity of volunteers. ArLA asks that requests prioritize the needs of your library staff.

ArLA Mask Order Form

Timelines for reopening will vary from community to community. The Arkansas Department of Health maintains an updated list of COVID-19 positive test results by county. Areas with higher rates of infection may remain in the earlier phases of reopening longer than areas with a lower likelihood of community spread.

When planning to move from one phase to the next, give staff at least a few days warning (one week if possible) to prepare mentally and physically for the next phase.

Processes for Reopening

During Phases 1 and 2, library administration and staff can begin the processes necessary to reopen the building to the public. Things to accomplish include:

As libraries prepare to reopen, administrators and staff should keep in mind that it’s not just one’s physical health and well-being that needs to be taken care of, but emotional and mental well-being as well. This is a stressful time for everyone, and everyone copes with stress differently.

Modification of Traditional Library Services

During Phase 3, libraries should reopen to the public with modified or limited services. Areas to consider for modification include programming (including Summer Reading Programs), service hours, meeting room usage, and lowing maximum capacity threshold of the library.

The Arkansas State Library will be providing a license to READsquared for every public library in the state to provide an online Summer Reading Program experience for your patrons. For additional information about READsquared, contact Ruth Hyatt.

Ideas for modification of traditional services include:

Resources for Planning

Utah Libraries Plan for Moving Towards Full Service
Missouri Libraries Reopening Guidelines, April 2020
Beaufort County Library (SC) Pandemic Reopening Plan
American Libraries: Reopening: Not When? But How?
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning

Resources for Health and Well-Being

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
Fabric Mask Pattern with Three Layers
Instructions for No Sew Face Masks
Disaster Distress Helpline 1.800.985.5990 – Talk with a trained crisis counselor at SAMHSA’s hotline
Coping with Stress during Infectious Disease Outbreaks
How to Safely Remove Gloves, Montana State Library, starring Joann Flick

Online Summer Reading Program

The Arkansas State Library is in the process of procuring a statewide license to READsquared to ensure that public libraries will be able to continue to offer one of their core services, Summer Reading, during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

READsquared will allow public libraries to offer a fully online summer reading program with many of the characteristics of a traditional summer reading program while keeping library staff and patrons safe. READsquared is customizable and each participating library system can select the features suitable for your local program such as:

Patrons will be able to use READSquared on their home computers or through an app on their smartphones. Library staff will receive training and assistance to get set up. READsquared supports the 2020 summer reading program theme “Imagine Your Story” for each target population including Early Literacy (ages birth-4), Children (ages 5-12), Teen (ages 13-17), and Adult (ages 18 & up).

For a sneak preview check out the READsquared preview; more information will be available to public libraries soon. In the meantime, public libraries should contact Ruth Hyatt (501.682.2860). READsquared was made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services to the Arkansas State Library under the provisions of the CARES Act.

Weekly Youth Services Programming Zoom

Ruth, Hyatt, Coordinator of Youth Services, hosts a Zoom session every Friday at 1 p.m. for librarians providing youth services to share ideas and concerns during the COVID-19 outbreak. To be added to the inviation list, send an email to 

Additional Resources

AR Department of Health Directive on Summer Camps
American Libraries: Digital Escape Rooms and Other Online Programming

WiFi in Library Parking Lots

The American Library Association (ALA) recommends that public libraries should leave WiFi networks on and available to the public during closures due to COVID-19. On February 23, 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice confirming that community use of E-Rate supported WiFi networks is permitted during school and library clousures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Public K-12 Schools in Arkansas are closed to on-site instruction through the end of the school year. WiFi available in libraries’ parking lots will provide a key resource for students’ and families’ ability to complete school activities during this time.

The Arkansas State Library has created a spreadsheet and map of publicly available, free WiFi available in library parking lots throughout the state of Arkansas. Information is self-reported by the individual libraries. Please contact your local library for more information about WiFi and library services during the COVID-19 outbreak. We encourage users to access these sites from within a parked vehicle.

Parking Lot WiFi Map

Parking Lot WiFi Spreadsheet

Some academic institutions also have WiFi available in the parking lot.

Best Practices for Handling and Disinfecting Library Materials

The following suggestions for quarantining and sanitizing materials are based on the currently available data and may change as research evolves. The following information should not be interpreted as medical advice.

There are no studies that specifically answer the question of how transmissible COVID-19 might be from the most common library materials such as coated and uncoated paper, bookcloth, or polyester book jackets. Preliminary research suggests that the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to three days or longer. Because library materials are made up of multiple types of surfaces, quarantine of materials from 3-14 days is preferred over aggressive cleaning strategies:

Additional Resources

Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections
American Libraries: How to Sanitize Collections in a Pandemic
COVID-19 Basics: Disinfecting Cultural Resources
Mayo Clinic Q&A: Length of Time COVID-19 Can Live Outside an Organism Varies Considerably
Public Health Emergencies: COVID-19 & Cultural Institutions
Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1

Resources for Digital Library Services During COVID-19

Library Journal InfoDocket

The links maintained on this page from Library Journal provide updates and special offers from vendors and other companies that work with the library community.

Live Streaming Story Time

According to Sarah Ostman, ALA Public Programs Office, there is "growing consensus among copyright experts that posting online story times to continue mission-driven library and educational services during the coronavirus emergency is a fair use." 

See Online Story Time & Coronavirus: It’s Fair Use, Folks, from the American Library Association Public Programs Office.for more information.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Penguin Random House is permitting libraries to create and share story time and read-aloud videos and live events. Story time in which a Penguin Random House book is read out loud and the book is displayed (for picture books) may be streamed live, in real time, on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitter, and Instagram.

Visit Penguin Random House for more details and guidance. 


Online children's book databases includes animated talking picture books, read-alongs, ebooks, and educational games. Free for public libraries through at least August 31. Public libraries should email with subject line Free TumbleBooks in order to receive free links to all three TumbleBook databases.

Arkansas State Library
900 W. Capitol, Suite 100
Little Rock, AR 72201
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