CULC/CBUC Toolkit on Recovery & Reimagined Public Library Services Post COVID-19

Checklists of Key Considerations

This checklist is a summary of the key considerations across all subject areas covered in the Toolkit. It is provided as a handy guide to the range of topics covered and a resource to support a comprehensive review of areas to be considered in reimagining public library services post COVID-19.

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Governance Checklist

  • Is your corporate strategy still relevant? To what degree are you prepared to re-invent the library’s role in the community?
  • What policies and relationships need to be in place before the library re-open?
  • What needs to be ready for rapid decision making over the next 12-18 months? What decisions will be made by the Board; what authority will the CEO have?
  • Do you need to reassess your risk identification and mitigation plans?
  • Has your provincial government demonstrated a strong knowledge of public libraries? What advocacy is required?
  • Do your existing policies support vulnerable populations’ use of library services? (membership policy, longer loan periods, no overdue fines, use of cards or cash)
  • Is your library/community prepared to move away, even temporarily, from traditional public library openness to everyone, in favour of a preferential system that may first focus on vulnerable populations, supporting school children, etc.?

Collections Checklist

General Materials Handling

  • What are the minimum health and safety recommendations to permit the lending of physical collections, understanding that research is emerging on how long the COVID-19 virus remains on various types of surfaces?

Customer Access to Collections

  • What services could be offered to limit physical contact and support access for all, particularly, vulnerable groups?
  • What membership and circulation policies should be reviewed to encourage library use and equitable access?

Collections Development

  • How should acquisition, cataloguing and processing workflows be adjusted?
  • How can the library balance collections with new restraints and demands?

Marketing & Communication Checklist

  • How will you raise awareness of what the library can offer now and consider these existing services as a foundation to build on?
  • How can your library create a cascade of information – timely, accurate updates of what is available now, and what is to follow?
  • How will you emphasize that a safe and sound approach to reopening will mean a gradual return of services; unfortunately, not every service?
  • How will you remind patrons that each library service must adapt to a new operating environment?
  • What are the best ways to keep your patrons informed of these immediate and long-term changes to their library system?
  • Do you have a plan to communicate with your partners, your funders and your supporters to secure their continued interest and involvement?
  • What roles can they play in your recovery efforts? What information do they need to support the library?
  • Can you take your vision statement in a new direction? Can you deliver your mandate by doing things differently, and doing different things?
  • How will we have candid and thoughtful community conversations about the ways libraries are changing?
  • How can libraries demonstrate their relevance and communicate their value, without alienating library users that preferred the way things used to be?

Information Services & Other Frontline Services Checklist

Information Service includes reference and referral services, reader’s advisory, technical help and instruction, work to reduce misinformation, and customer service.
  • How can the library provide meaningful customer support and technology assistance while maintaining physical distance?
  • How do you provide equitable access to information for those experiencing barriers to access? Including:
    • social isolation
    • technology access (devices, WiFi, know-how, etc.)
    • language barriers (ESL/multilingual, literacy-levels, etc.)
    • accessibility barriers (digital and built environments)
  • How can you understand evolving community information needs and respond to them quickly?
  • How can staff feels safe/prepared enough to give the best possible customer service
  • How can you provide user-centered service design including streamlined processes and clear communication?

Programming Checklist


  • Which audiences and programs are priorities for your library at this time?
  • What do our communities need in a time of pandemic, and can we create or adapt programs to address those needs?
  • What is the optimal balance between digital programming, in-person programming and outreach? What mix of program models or approaches makes the best use of resources to meet community needs?
  • Should all programs require registration, to ensure we are able to assist with contact tracing if necessary?
  • What should the timeline look like (flexible, staged approach)?
  • What changes need to be made to program policies or procedures to reflect the above?


  • How will you communicate new expectations to program participants?
  • How will you respond if staff or patrons test positive for COVID-19?
  • How will you inform the public of safety measures we are taking?
  • What strategies will you use to communicate with the public and promote programs to diverse audiences, including those who are not online?
  • How will you re-engage patrons and continue to engage with new patrons in a time of service limitations?

Physical Distancing Measures

  • What is the effective occupancy of program rooms or spaces given physical distancing guidelines (note, a distance of 2m on all sides of a person creates a circle with an area of 12.56 square metres)?
  • Can programs be held in open or outdoor spaces?
  • Based on the answers to the above, how many participants can be safely included in an in-person program?
  • Can children be realistically expected to observe physical distancing guidelines?
  • Can programs that normally require close contact – for example, one-on-one technology help – be effectively adapted to follow physical distancing guidelines?
  • Can programs that normally involve physical activity be effectively adapted to follow physical distancing guidelines?

Safety Precautions

  • How do you ensure the health and safety of staff, patrons, volunteers, partners, and external presenters?
  • What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be required for staff, volunteers, external presenters and patrons?
  • What shared objects are typically used in a program (for example, toys, games, craft supplies / tools, technology)? Can those be effectively sanitized for safe use, or can the program be adapted to work without them?
  • For programs that normally include snacks, is there a safe way to provide these or can the program be adapted to work without them?
  • For digital programs, how do you ensure patrons’ safety and privacy while using a variety of technology tools?

Staff Support

  • What training will staff need with respect to health and safety measures?
  • What training will staff need to support them with new models of programming?
  • How can you best support staff working with the public in a time of high anxiety?

Community Support

  • How do you make programs feel safe, welcoming and inclusive?
  • How do you best reach and support vulnerable or underserved audiences?
  • How do you best reach and support Indigenous communities?
  • How can you reduce or remove barriers to participation?
  • Can digital programming content be shared with other libraries locally, provincially or nationally?
  • How can you best work with community partners?


  • Which new program models should be retained as libraries reopen?
  • How will staffing models and staff roles be affected by the above questions?

The Built Environment Checklist

Capacity & Layout

Assumptions: social distancing = 2m

  • Will the public be restricted based upon total occupant load of the building or capacity of an area/space? and how will that be done?
  • What are the unique challenges of each branch? (i.e. leased space, multiple floors, co-located with other municipal and non-municipal uses)?
  • Does the library need to submit a “plan” of how it is meeting public health requirements prior to opening?
  • What is the decision-making framework for changes to the facility? Who signs off on plans/renovations? Will some areas need to be cordoned off? Will you move to closed stacks?
  • Which areas in the library are high priority for modifying to allow for social distancing? Computer lab/area, service points, entrances/exits, shelving aisles- directional limits (ex. one-way aisles), meeting rooms, reading lounges/seating areas
  • Where should quarantined materials be held (program room? expanded book-drop areas?)
  • What work could be done prior to reopening to improve capacity? weeding of collection

Building Systems

  • Are HVAC systems maintained and working well?
  • Can windows in the building be opened safely?
  • Is it preferable for the AMH to be used over staff handling materials? What is the most effective way to clean your AMH machine(s)?
  • What changes are required to existing contracts? (ex. cafe, maintenance, janitorial)

Furniture & Finishes

  • Which surfaces and finishes are more susceptible to contamination and how long does the virus live? (research is evolving)
  • Have you identified the library’s high touch surfaces identified to ensure cleaning priority?
  • Is it possible to retrofit entrance ways so door handles are eliminated?
  • If furniture/equipment/toys are to be moved, where will they be stored?

Technology Considerations

  • How will keyboards and mice be cleaned (public and staff use)?
  • Can self-checks be set to not require touch screen use? Is it possible to implement further touch free/self-service options with customers checking out items on their own devices?
  • Are there options for touch-free automation to reduce contact with other surfaces (ex. automated hand-washing dispensers, automated hand drying, automatic doors, etc.)

Moving Through & Interacting Within the Space

  • Are distance markers required for limiting the number of people allowed in at a time? For queueing?
  • What strategies can be used to manage crowding in elevators, escalators and stairs?
  • Is it possible to separate entrance areas for exit areas in your building?
  • Do emergency evacuation procedures need to be reconsidered? What would that look like?
  • Should plexiglass barriers be installed to service desks? Between public computers?
  • What strategies will we use to discourage use of cash? (cards/phones with tap preferred, fine-free?)
  • When will it be safe to open children’s play areas? Will they have shared toys? Interactives?
  • Should all shelving be done during closed hours?
  • How will staff breaks be handled to allow for social distancing? Are staff areas being adequately cleaned? Who is responsible for the cleaning?
  • Are there adequate hand-washing stations? Is there a need for handwashing stations in the public areas of the library? In staff (circulation) areas? More hand sanitizer stations featured more prominently?
  • Should water fountains be used? Should they be redesigned? Should food and drink continue to be allowed in libraries?
  • What should be measured at the facility? Gate count, material returns, WiFi use?
  • What has to be procured in advance of opening? sneeze shields, foot print – peel and stick, PPE, stanchions, signage.
  • If your library continuing curbside pickup during a partial or staged opening for people who choose it or who have compromised immune systems? What precautions need to be in place outside of buildings?
  • Is the adjacent outdoor space that can use to increase seating capacity? Can the building’s WiFi be extended into that space?


  • Is there signage and communication asking customers to stay home if feeling unwell/displaying any symptoms?
  • What wayfinding methods should be used to communicate new guidelines and limits to visitors and staff (signage, floor decals, PA announcements stanchions, etc.)?
  • Are drawings needed to communicate what furniture is to be moved, routing of the public, stanchions?
  • Is staff training required related to the physical changes to the branch?
  • How are the limitations of the branch (occupant load) documented and communicated?

Staffing Checklist

  • How can the library best support and accommodate staff, including those who:
    • are most vulnerable to COVID-19 once physical services resume?
    • have child/elder care obligations?
    • may come to work sick rather than provide medical notes?
    • are experiencing mental health issues arising from or exacerbated by COVID-19?
  • How can the library meet their obligations to provide a safe work environment, including:
    • responding to staff fears and anxiety about safety in the workplace?
    • addressing work refusals?
    • determining what PPE or public health measures will be required?
    • responding to staff expectations about PPE?
  • How will you manage the recall process for staff who are laid off/on leave?
  • When are continued remote work arrangements appropriate?
  • How can you build agile workplace cultures to respond quickly and innovate rapidly?
  • What is the best way to promote a change positive culture in times of uncertainty and rapid evolution?
  • How will you motivate employees and increase staff engagement in difficult times?
  • What is required to deliver trauma informed approaches to support each other?
  • How can staff learn to collaborate, communicate and deliver services and programs virtually?
  • How does the library support leaders in identifying and developing the skills and competencies needed in an unprecedented crisis and in a time of ongoing uncertainty for staff?