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Pandemic Flu Planning for Wisconsin Public Libraries

Community and County Planning for Potential Pandemic Influenza Outbreaks

Information about the current Avian Influenza A (H7N9) can be found at http://pandemic.wi.gov. The site includes current information, national and international resources, links to news articles, as well as pandemic planning checklists that may be of interest for local government planning as well as resources for families and businesses in the library’s service area.

The Federal Government has created an easier-to-remember site for current consumer flu information, http://www.flu.gov/, including information on the immunization campaign, a map with links to information in individual states, a "flu watch" section, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), and a current news section.

The possibility of avian flu several years ago inspired communities to prepare for a wide array of possible emergencies and crises. As with current local emergency preparedness plans, which you may have been involved in developing, the focus for pandemic flu planning should be on prevention, preparedness, and response. Pandemic flu planning should be incorporated into local emergency preparedness plans, and public libraries can play a critical role in distributing information and helping to keep the public informed. In this process, please consider the unique challenges of a pandemic flu that may need to be addressed in your library. The level of involvement with local or county emergency plans should be determined in advance.

Public libraries should work with their municipality to determine what services the library might be expected to provide in the event of pandemic outbreak in the community. In smaller communities, the emergency plan may be at the county level. The library may serve as a site to distribution information or emergency kits. The library director and board should work with local health officials, either with the municipality or the county, to determine whether it is appropriate to keep the library open, restrict areas where a higher density of people congregate, or to distribute materials or services at a single pick-up location. The library should also establish minimal acceptable staffing levels and determine at what point library services must be reduced or suspended due to staff illnesses, as well as what role the library can play in local emergency plans with reduced staffing levels.

ALA's Professional Tips Wiki includes a resource page for Pandemic Planning, with the following list of topics that should be considered in developing a library policy:

  • Criteria for closing the library
  • Employee policies for sick leave, payroll and banking/financial issues, working from home
  • Mandated documentation of procedures or cross training so others can take over for sick employees
  • Policies for “social distancing” – that is removing a number of chairs so people aren't sitting close to each other, or limiting the number of people who can come in at any one time, or taking out coat racks, and similar things that keep people and their belongings separate from each other.
  • Criteria for suspending story times and other library programs
  • Provision of masks and gloves, along with the training of staff in their removal and disposal.
  • Standards for the cleaning of bathrooms, railings and door knobs, telephones, keyboards, counters, and cleaning of workstations/offices of employees who go home sick, emptying of wastebaskets, etc.
  • Setting a schedule for seeing to the critical needs of the facility if the library is closed for an extended time (boiler and building checks by custodians, book drop, payroll and banking considerations)
  • Communications plan for reaching staff and for communicating with the public
  • Means for continuing to provide information services for the public, such as on line ordering of materials and pick up from a table in the lobby at certain times, or expansion of online services
  • Accommodation of the needs of poor people in the community who may not have a home subscription to the local newspaper or a working home computer
  • Education of the public in advance of an epidemic

In addition to the state and national resources posted at http://pandemic.wi.gov, resources are available on the Department of Public Instruction's Pupil Services page. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also maintain a site of information about the H7N9 outbreak.

For questions about this information, contact John DeBacher (608) 267-9225