At 10:30 a.m. on March 24, 2020, the State of Wisconsin issued a press release regarding Emergency Order #12, the “Safer at Home Order,” that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order. The order goes into effect at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, and will remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued. The following sections of the Order pertain to public libraries:
Order 4: Closures. The Safer at Home Order expressly orders the closure of all public libraries “for all in-person services, but may continue to provide on-line services and programming.” Compliance with this order would include the cessation of curbside and drive-thru services and any other distanced in-person services currently offered by libraries.
Order 12: Essential Government Functions. This order instructs government bodies such as a library board to continue to follow the guidance provided by the Office of Open Government (OOG) regarding holding meetings, as necessary. At a minimum, library boards should continue to convene monthly to audit and approve the payment of all expenditures of the public library, pursuant to Wis. Stat. sec. 43.58(2)(a). The OOG advisory on open meetings is available at https://www.doj.state.wi.us/news-releases/office-open-government-advisory-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-and-open-meetings. For help with additional questions about open meetings requirements, please contact the Open Meetings Help Line at (608) 267-2220.
Other functions exempted under this order could include food distribution and other activities deemed essential by the municipality, such as when the library acts as the municipal polling place. In-person library service to the public is not defined as an essential government function under this order.
Order 14: Minimum Basic Operations. This order allows the minimum necessary activities to preserve the library facility and equipment, address information technology (IT) issues, ensure physical and cybersecurity, process payroll and fulfill business services obligations, as well as activities that facilitate the ability of staff to work remotely from home.
DLT acknowledges that public libraries are a matter of local control. We encourage you to contact your municipal attorney, county corporate counsel, or independently contracted attorney for advice when interpreting legal issues.