ALA Survey Reports Similar Library Reopening Plans, But Scattered Schedules

The American Library Association’s (ALA) recent survey on how U.S. public, academic, and K–12 libraries have responded to the coronavirus pandemic will not surprise anyone with an eye on the field, but serves as a snapshot of mid-May concerns and projections.

ALA May 2020 Survey cover with graphics of coronavirusThe American Library Association’s (ALA) recent survey on how U.S. public, academic, and K–12 libraries have responded to the coronavirus pandemic will not surprise anyone with an eye on the field, but serves as a snapshot of mid-May concerns and projections.

The report analyzes more than 3,800 responses, from all 50 states, to a survey conducted between May 12–18; nearly all greatly stepped up remote services, community crisis response, and help for students and researchers. Nearly all libraries planned to put a combination of health and safety protocols into place as they opened, including sanitizing and quarantining materials (80 percent), social distancing requirements (76 percent), and deep cleaning of interior spaces (61 percent), but other plans for reopening vary widely.

graphic from ALA survey on projected reopening timelines with image of sign readingCurbside pickup, delivery of materials, and by-appointment services are the most common next steps; just over a quarter reported curbside pickup in progress at the time of the survey, with another 11 percent offering other limited access. More than one third—37 percent—expected to reopen in phases during June and July, but 47 percent said they were unsure when their buildings would begin to open to the public. Another 16 percent reported plans to open after July or were awaiting state or school directives. Some 1,500 examples of reopening plans and procedures were shared, which ALA and its partners will curate and disseminate in coming months.

The most urgent public library patron needs anticipated on reopening included access to physical materials, access to public computers and the internet, and help with government applications and job support. Academic and school libraries (K–20) predicted that they would offer the most help with student success, such as assignment completion, and faculty/teacher support for research or online teaching.

Libraries foresee transitioning summer learning programs online, as well as adding new enrichment learning activities, digitizing more materials for remote use, providing access to textbooks and other resources, and securing and/or distributing devices for students who lack. Faculty and teachers will need additional online resources—including help negotiating licensing contracts—and increased access to open textbooks and other educational materials.

Nearly all respondents anticipated fielding questions about safety protocols, PPE, and cleaning supplies—both from those they serve and staff—as well as “how people will continue to be affected by the virus and the ability of the library to respond; and how communities will change moving forward.” The future of library funding, and the effects of predicted budget cuts, are of particular concern.

ALA will host a webinar sharing the complete findings and key takeaways later this month.

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Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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