City Tech Reopening Plan

Attachment H. Resuming On-Site Library Services


Final Report and Recommendations of the CUNY Libraries COVID-19 Task Force
Executive Summary
June 30, 2020

Executive Summary

While many members of our campus communities are anxious for the library to reopen, CUNY Libraries must take a measured and evidence-based approach toward reopening that adheres to best practices that prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our personnel and our patrons. We strongly urge a CUNY-wide approach to a gradual and controlled reopening of the libraries to establish consistent expectations for access to on-site library services across campuses.

The purpose of this report is to provide a uniform set of recommendations to guide implementation of campus safety plans in the libraries. Individual colleges will be tasked with making local decisions that comply with industry guidelines issued in the New York Forward plan. In addition to thestate guidance for higher education, libraries are also subject to industry guidelines developed forretail businessesandoffice-based work, with additional measures to account for the proper care of the library’s physical collections. Libraries are high-touch spaces with frequent interaction between personnel and patrons. Without precautionary measures in place, libraries risk becoming vectors of infection for our communities.

Library organizations worldwide have closely monitored the latest research on the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on physical materials and the risk of indirect contact contamination. The global pandemic has spurred innovative responses from the international library community, and CUNY Libraries must align our approach with regional library systems to maintain resource sharing and reciprocal access arrangements that benefit our students and faculty.

We recommend a phased resumption of on-site services to allow operational issues to be resolved before moving to increased levels of activity. A phased reopening allows for a modular and flexible provision of remote services at varying levels as conditions evolve and provides a contingency plan for decreasing on-site operations as needed. We recommend reopening physical library spaces for patron use in Spring 2021 to allow libraries time to implement safety measures and reconfigure spaces appropriately while continuing to serve our communities remotely in the Fall 2020 semester.

Our considerations for opening library spaces will require close collaboration with other key units on each campus such as Facilities, Public Safety, and IT. Colleges that currently rely on busy libraries to house computer workstations and printing services should consider repurposing open spaces on campus that allow for greater social distancing with reduced staffing needs.

Issues and challenges of reopening library spaces:

  • High occupancy, crowding in narrow aisles and study spaces; close face-to-face contact at service points; shared offices
  • Patrons spend prolonged periods of time in closed spaces (cumulative viral load)
  • Numerous high-touch surfaces, including furniture, shared equipment, and circulating materials
  • Returned books and materials need to be quarantined before recirculating
  • Risk of exposure on public transportation for nearly all students, staff, and faculty
  • Unknown role of HVAC systems in transmission of the COVID-19 virus
  • Library faculty and staff who need to continue to work remotely because of health concerns and/or caretaking responsibilities
  • Coordinating our efforts with other campus units and offices such as Facilities and Public Safety, which are understaffed and under-resourced
  • Procuring the necessary supplies and equipment to maintain sanitary and safe library spaces

Best practice recommendations for reopening library spaces:

  1. Coordinate re-opening among CUNY colleges to avoid overwhelming campuses that open before others and provide consistent access and safety policies across libraries.
  2. Open libraries in phases, conditional upon environmental safety conditions (both on campus and citywide), sufficient staffing levels, and adequate provision of equipment (PPE).
  3. Gather and use information, including data on COVID transmission, infection rates, the availability and accuracy of testing, the availability and effectiveness of contact tracing, and the existing impact of the crisis on CUNY faculty, students, and staff, before making decisions about each successive phase of re-opening.
  4. Keep NYC context in mind when making new policy decisions, e.g., allowing students to access computers and to print at the nearest CUNY campus, not where they’re registered, in order to limit their exposure on public transportation.
  5. Institute precautionary measures for staff/faculty even if library spaces remain closed to patrons.
  6. Collaborate with other campus units (IT, Public Safety, Facilities, etc.) to develop innovative space solutions (e.g., moving computers out of the library to more open spaces on campus, controlling and monitoring occupancy limits, monitoring cleaning and supplies).
  7. Incentivize faculty outside of the library to use electronic resources, whether from the library collection or Open Education Resources (OERs), to reduce reliance on physical textbooks in reserves collections.
  8. Work closely with representatives from the multiple unions that represent faculty, professional and clerical staff, and building staff.

Phased levels of on-site library operations:

  • Physical Access Level 0: Online-only services, with no personnel onsite; all classes online
  • Physical Access Level 1: Online-only services, with minimal personnel onsite; most classes online
  • Physical Access Level 2: Online services and limited patron access to physical library; combination of in-person and virtual classes
  • Physical Access Level 3: Online services and expanded patron access to physical library; combination of in-person and virtual classes
  • Physical Access Level 4: Online services and full patron access to physical library; most classes inperson

Table 1

Levels of Physical Access to CUNY Library Spaces During the COVID-19 Pandemic (see A1 for details)

Level 0 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Online reference services
Library instruction
Research consultations
Collection development
Interlibrary loan electronic delivery
On-site personnel
Returned materials processing
Document Delivery (library employees scan)
Contactless pickup and delivery (includes interlibrary loan books)
Inter-CUNY Delivery (CLICS)
Interlibrary loan book lending and scanning
Patron access to spaces (includes special collections)
Library Computer Use
Library Printing
Library Study Spaces
Equipment Loans
Open Stacks
Print Reserves

Note: This table is not an exhaustive list of library services.

Table 2, Best Practices for Library Services

On-site Service/Activity Best Practice
Limiting number of personnel onsite
(all physical access levels)
  • Stagger shifts to limit personnel presence
  • Rotate on-site work shifts equitably among all personnel
  • Use A/B scheduling to limit employee interactions
  • Batch activities by employee to limit number of hands touching materials
Limiting number of patrons
(Levels 0-2)
  • Schedule pickups if doing click-and-collect (curbside/contactless)
  • Use a timed ticketing system or require appointments in advance when picking up books
(Levels 0-3)
  • Use separate areas for pickup and return to avoid congestion
  • Prepare to queue patrons outside the library
  • Install remote lockers for contactless pickup
  • Schedule pickup windows to reduce patron flow
  • Install plastic barriers for all service points
  • Require orders be placed before arrival or without entering the building (no on-site requests processed in Phase 0-2)
  • Add at least one self-service checkout machine to each campus library
Returned materials: intake
(all levels)
  • Accept returns by mail; consider providing prepaid mailers to students
  • Install indoor and outdoor return bins
  • Use separate areas for pickup and return to avoid congestion
Returned materials: processing
(all levels)
  • Use a separate plastic bin (or closed-off table) for each day of the week
  • Use physical barriers and signage to isolate designated bins/tables from personnel and patron areas
  • Add item status in the catalog when checking in returned books to indicate quarantine so patrons cannot request those items
  • Re-shelve items on a rolling basis: update item status and reshelve bins/tables that are +3 days old
Computer workstations
(Levels 3-4)
  • Require peripherals (keyboards and mice) be checked out and returned after use and isolate returned items for after-hours cleaning; or
  • Use single-use anti-dust plastic covers for peripherals; or
  • Provide/require single-use gloves for patrons using computer workstations
  • Provide antibacterial wipes for use on shared equipment
  • Eliminate sharing of headsets and other objects used near the eyes, nose, mouth
  • Use reservation/appointment system for computer use

Procurement and Funding Considerations

In order to meet these requirements for reopening CUNY Library spaces safely, we have identified areas where additional funding to the campuses is necessary.

  • Collections
    • Increased electronic resources, particularly for e-books
  • Equipment and supplies
    • Self-checkout machines, remote lockers, book kiosks
    • Delivery and pickup supplies (bags, mailers, packing materials, postage)
    • Physical barriers and installation
    • PPE / one-time use covers for peripherals
    • Signage and markers to promote social distancing
  • Personnel
    • Additional part-time staffing
    • Additional custodial staff