MLA Advocates for Upgraded Vaccine Eligibility for Library Workers

January 25, 2021

We know vaccine eligibility is of great concern to many Michigan library workers. MLA is advocating for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for library workers using a two-pronged approach. We are requesting the prioritization of public and academic library workers as essential service providers in the vaccine rollout program and we are also providing a template for library leadership to use to contact their local health departments.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations place our school and academic library workers in Phase 1b of a vaccine rollout, but public library and archive workers are in Phase 1c. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) guidelines (Michigan COVID-19 Vaccination Interim Prioritization Guidance – January 6, 2021) prioritize vaccine allocation for only K-12 school personnel, including K-12 library workers, in Phase 1b of the rollout.

MLA is urging the Governor and the MDHHS to make public and academic library workers eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1b.

We have provided library directors with a template letter to use to follow up with their own county departments of public health if deemed appropriate for their local needs.

Read MLA's letter to Governor Whitmer and MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. The text of the letter is also embedded below. We encourage library leadership to follow up with their local county health department. A template letter to use to follow up with local health departments is linked here.

Find your local health department.

 

 

 

January 25, 2021

 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer
State of Michigan
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Elizabeth Hertel, Director
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
333 S. Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 30195
Lansing, Michigan 48909

 

Dear Governor Whitmer and Ms. Hertel,

In our role as a leader and advocate for all libraries in Michigan, the Michigan Library Association (MLA) writes to each of you today to request the prioritization of all library workers as essential service providers in the vaccine rollout program. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines place our school and academic library workers in Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, but our public library and archive workers in Phase 1c. While we recognize that Michigan and our county health departments are afforded the opportunity to make state and local decisions on vaccine distribution, we are counting on you both to provide your leadership in recognizing the unwavering and vital services that all of our libraries provide to citizens and students in all 83 Michigan counties. We want to ensure that public and academic library workers in communities where libraries have already reopened to in-person services, or plan to do so, are eligible for vaccination in Phase 1b as well. (We note that K-12 school personnel, which includes library workers, are already called out in Phase 1b of the Michigan COVID-19 Vaccination Interim Prioritization Guidance – January 6, 2021.)  

After the first stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, many libraries closed their physical doors to in-person services in the interest of combatting community spread, with virtual services remaining, and even increasing: online storytime, redirected expenditure toward increased ebooks, remote/phone reference/research service, and more. Today, library workers continue to rise to the call to support their communities and their schools. Of critical note is the fact that the pandemic magnified digital inequities among our most vulnerable and disenfranchised citizens who rely heavily on libraries for access to reliable information and services, and personalized coaching to navigate digital resources, including: computer access and support; circulating hotspots, laptops and materials which are heavily relied on by students and educators. In addition, libraries serve as printing and faxing destinations for people who are submitting unemployment claims and COVID-19 test results; when applying for housing and food assistance programs; and completing aid applications to save local businesses; and so much more.

This critical work cannot be accomplished without the front-line library workers who are at high risk of contracting or unintentionally spreading COVID-19 as a result of their work in these institutions. Library workers have been, and remain, in close contact with the public, students and co-workers on a daily basis. With your help to get them vaccinated earlier, public and academic libraries can resume services while maintaining the safety of staff and the communities that they serve.

We also want to bring your attention to the updated guidelines of the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Memorandum on Ensuring Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers’ Ability to Work During the COVID-19 Response[1] (Version 4, December 2020, page 11) where they list media specialists and librarians and where they also “support prioritization decisions related to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the early stages when the vaccines are in short supply.”

We know that here in Michigan, you have placed emphasis on both protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness and ensuring the continued functioning of essential services in the community including those in health care and our schools.  At the same time, we urge you to acknowledge that library workers are at substantially higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and they involve being in close proximity (i.e., within 6 feet) to the public and to coworkers.

The MLA board, staff, and our 1900 members in Michigan respectfully request you to expedite eligibility of vaccinations for all library workers and to include them in Phase 1b of the Michigan vaccine rollout.

Thank you for your consideration and if I can answer any questions you might have, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Sincerely,

Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director

 


 


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