Libraries During the Stay at Home Order: Talking Points


These new talking points have been developed to assist ILA members in making the case for libraries during the Illinois Stay at Home order. They are primarily targeted at decision-makers -- library boards, city council members, institutional administrators, and other officials that have a say in the governance of your library -- but can be used for discussions with anyone, including patrons, students, faculty, or members of the community.  It is possible that not all of these talking points will work specifically for your library situation, nor may all apply to your specific audience. Please use as you see fit.

Libraries are Open -- Virtually

  • Although the building is closed, services continue! The library is part of the solution, essential to helping local residents with daily life, health concerns, unemployment and more.

  • Academic libraries are helping students and faculty with reference and research, online instruction, asynchronous videos ,and document delivery
  • Illinois libraries have closed their physical doors per the Stay at Home executive order of Governor Pritzker, ordering “nonessential businesses to cease.” Libraries are essential to communities, as are schools, academic institutions, and government buildings; however they are not explicitly listed in the executive order as essential and are not currently considered essential in the same way that healthcare providers or hospitals are. Libraries, like schools, academic institutions, and government buildings, remain open virtually.

  • Library staff continues to work through the crisis, offering a range of services, virtually, including:

    • e-books, audiobooks, online learning and tutoring sites for homework help  

    • reference, synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and research support
    • electronic databases
    • streaming story times, book discussions and author visits to engage readers of all ages 

    • access to skill building activities, resume development, access to tele-health resources and trustworthy public health information. 

    • in some instances, curbside delivery. See Re-opening Library Buildings in Illinois.

  • Library leaders across the state are working to find the best method to reopen doors to the public, when it is safe to do so and in accordance with the orders of the governor. 

Practical Considerations

  • Some library boards and community and institutional leaders are considering furloughs to cut costs. Keep in mind that in many cases, public libraries have already received funding to pay staff through their fiscal or calendar year. The spring tax cycle had been completed before the worst of COVID-19 set in. 

  • Layoffs and furloughs undermine libraries' important work in preparing communities to learn, connect, evaluate information and thrive during any and all extenuating circumstances. Libraries that layoff now will have communities that are less prepared for the subsequent outbreaks of COVID-19 that many public health officials fear will come later in 2020.

  • Layoffs and furloughs for library staff will have a domino effect on local economies. Because library staff are consumers and residents in their communities, eliminating their paychecks will mean that local businesses and stores will incur less revenue. Furloughs and layoffs will increase instability in the community.

  • Whether paid by the library or through unemployment, staff at publicly supported libraries and institutions are still receiving tax dollars.  Keeping the payments local enables the larger federal pool to be used for others in the community who need it. It’s fiscally responsible for communities to keep their libraries whole.  

  • Layoffs and furloughs throw more people into an already overwhelmed unemployment system. Illinois libraries have the resources to keep off of unemployment, in support of federal efforts, saving U.S. taxpayers money.  

Re-opening Library Buildings in Illinois 

  • Libraries are planning ahead for a careful, phased re-openings to best ensure the safety of all.   

  • Implementation of services such as “curbside delivery” are being considered carefully, with great attention to staff and patron safety, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), safe material handling, social distancing and logistics of the physical building in regard to traffic, accessibility, and other factors. At this time, the availability of that service is best determined at the local level. 

  • Library leaders are working to assure that when staff returns to their buildings, there is adequate PPE and sufficient, effective disinfecting and cleaning supplies, without taking away from the supply needed for top-priority medical workers and first responders.

  • Because items in libraries are borrowed and then returned to the library, there is an added layer of precaution and procedure needed. Libraries plan to create best practices based on upcoming results of research being conducted on the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, regarding the virus’s viability on library materials.

When the Order Lifts

  • As Illinois begins to “re-open,” libraries will be among the first agencies communities look to for assistance – finding jobs, filling out state and federal aid forms, online instruction, document delivery, etc.  Keeping staff on the payroll allows them to prepare libraries for these contingencies so they can hit the ground running.

  • Library leadership are taking a long-term view of the quarantine and making plans for the future. If we help Illinois libraries now, they will be ready to help Illinois residents with economic recovery in the near future.



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