News - MLA

Curbside Service and Reopening Plans for Michigan Libraries

April 30, 2020

Updated - EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY - LIBRARIES TO REMAIN CLOSED THROUGH MAY 28, 2020. On Thursday evening, April 20, 2020 Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-69 which extends her previous order that temporarily closes certain places of public accommodation such as libraries, theaters, bars, casino, and more.

You are all amazing! In just 24 hours, MLA heard from 331 library directors who stated that they will be ready to offer curbside services in their phased-in plans to reopen - 71% will offer curbside, 23% are unsure, and 6% will not offer it at all.

It was interesting to note, however, that only 15% of libraries are ready to immediately offer curbside services. The remainder - 85% - will be ready within a week to a month after the Governor lifts any Executive Orders and restrictions.

Why? Because library leaders must utilize data from experts. That may mean delaying decisions until data is available and verified about the nature of the spread of the coronavirus. MLA commends all of the libraries in Michigan for being patient and making sure that they are using the best information and insights and being thoughtful in creating their phased plans before they begin to implement anything.

MLA has been in communication with other statewide library associations (like Wisconsin) that have lifted restrictions for curbside service and they have stated point-blank that the lifting of these restrictions caught them off guard and they were not ready to immediately implement this service. MLA is here to help our libraries be totally prepared for the eventual phased-in reopening of their facilities and their services – curbside is definitely on the radar as one of the first services to be offered in almost all of the plans we have seen to date.

Through your responses, MLA documented a number of ways that you will feel safe in offering curbside service. You told us that you will feel safe when you have enough PPE to do the job of implementing high standards of protection as defined by the CDC and your local health departments. You told us that you will feel confident about offering curbside when you see a downward curve in coronavirus cases and when all staff has been trained and processes (like social distancing) are in place to safeguard staff and patrons. You told us through your responses that guidance and protocols from our Governor and government agencies are needed.

In many of your responses, it was noted that libraries are very different from retail and grocery outlets when doing curbside pickup or dropoff - loaned items are given out and then returned, over and over and over again, and libraries must adhere to higher standards of cleaning/disinfecting/quarantining items that are returned.

With all of that said, now is the time for preparation!

Libraries are now preparing individualized phased-in reopening plans and are being very careful and thoughtful to take into consideration staff and patron protections from the continued spread and/or a resurgence of the virus. Part of the reopening plans will also entail continued research for how long the virus can live on materials like books, CDs, games, computers, audiobooks, etc. – all things that are physically loaned by the library, and how best to sanitize these materials before they are checked out again.

We urge you to read through the questions for reopening that have been compiled by the 11 library cooperatives across Michigan. This is a very extensive list of questions that all libraries should be asking and addressing as they create their phased-in reopening plans. It is attached here for your perusal.

If you have a draft of your plan already in the works or ready to implement, send it over to us. We’ll compile them on our website for you to view and I’m sure that no one will mind if you “steal” some great ideas that might work for you and your library. I’ve always been a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. Kristin Shelley, MLA’s Board President and the Director of the East Lansing Public Library has been working diligently on the ELPL phased-in reopening plan and has given us permission to share it. It should give you a glimpse into what should be included.

It is critical to note that the plans that resonate at the highest professional standards are the plans that call for a slow, staged reopening, and the need for flexibility by staff and board members, allowing for the ability to go backward or stay in one stage for an extended period should the virus resurge.

As government agencies, libraries are currently following Section 6 of EO 2020-59 which states that all government activities are suspended until May 15 unless they protect or sustain life. In this instance, and until another Executive Order rescinds or extends EO 2020-59, MLA stands strong that libraries mustn’t reopen for any activities except online.

We urge you to continue to support the Governor’s restrictions to keep our library buildings closed until other similar types of buildings are reopened like community centers and museums. It should be noted as well that libraries have more traffic than museums and the majority of our collections can be touched easily and freely. Libraries are higher risk, higher contact places and I know that you want to reduce, at all costs, the continued spread of this devastating virus. Once Governor Whitmer gives the “go ahead” and lifts restrictions, it will be up to each community to decide when the right time is to open your doors.

There is much to take into consideration before your public facilities are ready to open the doors and provide in-person activities, even curbside. For now, we admire your patience and not rushing to reopen – and we are in full support of this. So many of you have let us know that you are taking much needed time while online programs continue, to put into place a phased-in approach to providing in-person services that our citizens love and adore.

As always, please reach out if MLA can be of assistance to you or your boards and staff members. We encourage you to share this message with your boards as they should be privy to the hard work and extremely difficult decisions that you are facing to protect your staff and patrons.

With much gratitude for replying quickly to our survey. Be well, stay safe. We are #StrongerTogether

Debbie Signatiure

Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director



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