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Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness

Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness for Wisconsin Public Libraries


According to Merriam-Webster Online, a pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. This can include many diseases, such as Influenza and Coronavirus. The following is a list of resources regarding pandemics, including considerations for policy development, prevention, preparedness, and response to outbreaks.

Public libraries can work with their municipalities 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 distribute information or emergency kits. The library director and board can 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 might 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.

The American Library Association (ALA) recommends that the following topics be considered when developing an individual library policy on illness and/or pandemic prevention and preparedness (after ensuring they are consistent with all other library policies):

  • Criteria for closing the library
  • Employee policies for sick leave, payroll, working from home
  • Cross training so others can take over for sick employees.
  • Social distancing (removing a number of chairs so people are not so close to each other, limiting the number of people who can come in at any one time, doing things that keep people and belongings apart from each other).
  • Criteria for suspending library programs.
  • Providing masks and gloves, and training staff in their removal and disposal.
  • Standards for cleaning bathrooms, railings and door knobs, telephones, keyboards, counters; workstations/offices of employees who go home sick, emptying wastebaskets, etc. 
  • Scheduling critical facility needs in the event of an extended library closure (building checks, book drop, payroll, etc.).
  • Communications plan for reaching staff and communicating with the public.
  • Alternative means of providing information services to the public (enhanced or altered holds pick ups).
  • Accommodating the needs of those without a local newspaper subscription or home computer.
  • Educating the public in advance of an epidemic.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent source of outbreak information and emergency preparedness concerns. Public libraries may wish to review the Resources for Community- and Faith-Based Leaders page for guidance, checklists, and cleaning and disinfecting recommendations. The CDC also provides a number of free print resources, from fact sheets to hand washing posters, in multiple languages.

Agencies within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also have reliable information, particularly the MedlinePlus consumer health information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and more in-depth information for researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The World Health Organization (WHO) site provides a more global perspective on pandemics, including international travel advice.

More locally, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) provides a wealth of information for Wisconsin residents, including guidance for employers, self-quarantine practices, and a current outbreaks and investigations tracker. Wisconsin's Flu Resource includes current information, national and international resources, links to news articles, pandemic planning checklists, and resources for families and businesses in Wisconsin.

For questions about this information, contact Shannon Schultz (608) 266-7270