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


Best & Leading Practices

The following sections identify policy areas to consider addressing before you open and to assist with planning for ongoing operations during COVID-19 health restrictions, as well as links to resources that may guide your policy development, and examples of policies where available. The sections include policy considerations before you open, for the first few months of operations, considerations for maintaining stable governance, and suggestions for virtual Board meetings.

If your provincial government or health authority has provided specific guidelines for libraries, refer to these for any policy considerations. An early example of a sector plan from Manitoba is available here: Museums, Galleries & Libraries. Some may find the retail and curbside guides from Ontario more helpful: Ontario Sector Specific Guidance for Re-opening. The Province of Alberta’s Guidance for Museums and Art Galleries, Guidance for Restaurants, Cafes, Pubs, and Bars & Workplace Guidance for Business Owners may also be helpful. The National Post has provided links to restart plans across the country: COVID-19 reopenings: Here are all the plans by province and territory to ease coronavirus lockdowns.

Patron Management

Codes of conduct for patrons may require revision, as well as policies for when you deny service to individuals. See The Built Environment section of this Toolkit for further considerations. Consider:
  • Are you supplying sanitizer, cleaning materials to patrons?
  • Are you screening? Turning away symptomatic patrons? Offering masks?
  • Will you deny library access to patrons who break physical distancing repeatedly? Don’t wear a mask if required? Cough openly?
  • Where are you documenting maximum capacity for a space? Consider both the staff and public in identifying the maximum capacity. For example, provincial retail guidelines suggest 1 person per 4-5 sqm of open floor space.
  • How will you count people? Will you use a counting device?
  • How will you organize the waiting line outside? Will you mark on the ground recalling the physical distance?
  • How long can patrons stay? Consider starting with short stays to pick-up holds, print jobs and briefly use a computer.
  • Is group use allowed? How large a group?
  • How do you enforce requirements in self-service locations? Consider increasing monitoring of the security cameras.

Occupational Health & Safety

Policies in this area may need updating, or a temporary policy will be required. See the Staffing section of this Toolkit for further considerations. OH&S responsibilities and committees may need to change for this period. Areas to consider include:

  • physical distancing (one on one, behind desk, during training/groups)
  • supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • personal hygiene expectations
  • screening, which may include temperature checks or signed verifications prior to shifts
  • cleaning, disinfecting
  • continued liberal allowance for paid sick leave for staff who may get ill or show symptoms (related to risk management)
  • written guideline for each scenario of illness, self-isolation and leave


Sample Policies & Guides

Working From Home

Authorities are encouraging people to continue to work from home to reduce exposure. In a unionized environment, include the union in discussions about considerations for working at home. Areas to consider include:
  • equipment availability
  • ergonomics
  • working alone check-in procedures
  • activity management
  • flexibility of scheduling in the new environment/when working from home
  • continuation of working from home on an indefinite basis


Sample Policies & Guides: Public Libraries

Sample Policies & Guides: Other Sectors

Risk Management

Consideration of liability for public exposure should be considered. For example, if you have staff who work at multiple locations, do you need to consider changes to reduce exposure risk in an outbreak, as they have in long term care?



If your library is considering screening patrons or staff, taking temperatures or collecting information about patrons for contact tracing, privacy legislation will apply, and your privacy policy may need revision. The following documents provide relevant considerations for revising your privacy policy.

Vulnerable Communities

Do your policies revisions and existing policies support vulnerable communities in using the library and reducing transmission? You may wish to consider longer library loan periods, waiving fines, hours for seniors only, and the impact of requiring contactless payment. Are there new partnerships that are arising as a result of this period that would make sense to continue, such as with food banks?


Stable Governance & Rapid Decision-Making

Health orders or community expectations may change rapidly during this period. Libraries should prepare for multiple waves of health restrictions that may require immediate action. The following are policies that can support rapid decision-making.
  • Emergency meetings section/policy: allows you to call emergency meetings on short notice and appropriately considers that some trustees may not be reachable in an emergency.
  • Delegated authority that gives the CEO the authority to act as needed in an emergency, which may include power that would normally be held by the Board, e.g. for significant financial issues or closure decisions. This should be explicit about decisions and notifications, and often includes delegated authority for financial controls.
  • How does the CEO make decisions in emergency situations when the Board cannot be reached? e.g. set of criteria for making decisions that is approved, followed by an information report to Board.
  • Succession policy for the CEO in case of illness
  • Closure and re-opening policy or established criteria. Who will you need to align with? Public health authority? City direction? Other community facilities? Other libraries in the region?

Sample Language for Delegated Authority

  • Example: The CEO shall have, subject always to the general and specific instructions and directions of the Board, full power and authority to manage and direct the business and affairs of the Library (except for the matters and duties as by law must be transacted or performed by the Board), including power and authority to enter into contracts, engagements or commitments of every nature or kind in the name of and on behalf of the Board and to recommend, engage, and employ and to dismiss all managers and other employees and agents of the Board other than officers of the Board.
  • Toronto – In the midst of the COVID-19 public health emergency, it is prudent for the Board to delegate additional authority to the City Librarian to make awards and enter into agreements, which are deemed urgent and necessary, allowing for emergency procurement and awards in excess of $500,000. All awards made under this additional delegated authority would be reported at the next Board meeting.
  • Edmonton – Authority and responsibility for purchasing goods and services, and construction contracting for EPL is delegated to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Purchasing commitments will be made within the funding approved in the EPL Board budget. Treasury Management Policy
  • Edmonton – The Board of the Edmonton Public Library delegates authority to the CEO for the temporary closure of a library service point due to renovations, relocations, emergencies and other events. The CEO may consider the provision of library service from an alternate location if the estimated time of closure is deemed sufficient. Temporary Library Service Point Closures

Sample Policies for Emergency Meetings

  • Hamilton – The Chair may, or upon the written request of any two members of the Board, call a Special Meeting by giving, through the Secretary or designate, at least three days written notice to each member, specifying the purpose for which the meeting is called. The purpose of a Special Meeting shall be specific. No business shall be transacted or considered at such a meeting other than that specified in the notice.
  • Toronto – Special meetings of the Board may be held at any time at the call of the Chair or at the call of the City Librarian subsequent to receipt of a petition signed by a majority of the Members requesting a special meeting. There must be at least 24 hours’ notice from issuance of the notice of special meeting and the time of the meeting. Notice to Members will be given by the Secretary in writing. The purpose of the special meeting must be stated in the notice and no other business will be transacted at that special meeting except in accordance with rules associated with urgent matters. Notice of special meetings will be posted on the Library’s website. All meetings are open to the public, except for meetings or portions of meetings that satisfy the requirements of the Act for closed meetings.

Virtual Meetings

During physical distancing, many Board practices will need adjustment. Libraries’ policies will need to allow for virtual and phone meetings, and ensure that decision making still meets legislative requirements in the jurisdiction. Examples of approaches to Board meetings are described in Section 3: Stories from the Field, including using external coordination, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Google Hangouts is another option.
  • Does your provincial legislation allow you to meet virtually? If not, do you have an exemption?
  • Does the procedure policy allow for virtual meetings?
  • How does the public participate? Do they need to register in advance?
  • How do you ensure confidentiality of in camera items?
  • Does your technology solution allow the coordinator to mute everyone, or remove someone from a meeting?
  • Can you ensure the privacy of a closed meeting with your technology solution?
  • Will your solution support the number of people that you expect to attend?


Sample Policies and Guides

Crisis Management

In the worst case scenario, with all the health and safety measures in place, you may still have an infected staff member, volunteer, or member of the public who has used your facility, and you could have to deal with an outbreak. See the Marketing & Communications section of the Toolkit for additional support in crisis planning. In preparation for crisis management, areas to consider:
  • Health & safety checklist: who do you need to advise in an outbreak? Will you need to close for cleaning? Who is notified? How is it different if public, if staff?
  • Reputation management/crisis communication plan. What do you need to have on hand? e.g. your cleaning checklist, how you are managing risk.
  • Who is your spokesperson?