COVID-19 Team Report #1

Notice: We are aware that all Shawnee County School classes have been suspended.*

 COVID-19 Team Report – Friday, March 13, 2020

 We want to update you on what we are doing to handle COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. There is an administrative team that is monitoring the situation and speaking with health officials and library staff to ensure the situation is handled reasonably and responsibly. That team is: Chief Executive Officer Gina Millsap, Chief of Staff Thad Hartman, Chief Human Resources Officer Jesse Maddox and Communications and Marketing Director Diana Friend.

The health and safety of our staff and customers is our highest priority. As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve we are doing everything we can to ensure everyone can continue to use their library.

To stay up-to-date on the COVID-19 virus, we are monitoring information from the Shawnee County Health Department, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC). The KDHE is currently testing for COVID-19 at the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories. The agency has also posted a Novel Coronavirus FAQ for information concerning this disease.  There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawnee County.

We have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in place to ensure that key personnel can work remotely if necessary, so that payroll and other essential internal operations can proceed without interruption.

Like every other library in the country, we are debating on whether to cancel public programs, suspend certain services, or even close. Many libraries are announcing the cancellation of programs, outreach services, and public meetings held in library facilities.

We plan to stay open unless/until the following things occur:

  1. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawnee County
  2. Local and/or state health agencies recommend that we suspend services or place restrictions on public gatherings
  3. Widespread public school closings.* We have spoken with Shawnee County Health Officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, M.D., M.P.H. and he has indicated that the library should remain open at this time and follow the best practices for the control and prevention of COVID-19.
  4. It’s the library’s responsibility to participate in flattening the curve. This phrase is being used a lot. It means that you can take the peak of infections out of a pandemic by implementing social distancing early in the event. The problem right now is that the U.S. is behind in testing and assessing the timeline and progress of the virus. Decisions to close in aid of flattening the curve are being made at the local level so we will continue to be guided by our local and state public health professionals.

Service Updates

We have been in contact with the KDHE, and based on their recommendations we have decided to make the following service adjustments:

  • Suspend Bookmobile services through 3/31/2020.  During this time, we will bring reserves out in a van to the stops to maintain a modicum of service.
  • Suspend Learn and Play Bus stops through 3/31/2020. The KDHE has indicated that they see the bookmobiles and the Learn and Play Bus as problematic because of the small space that doesn’t allow for social distancing.
  • Temporarily remove the Juvenile Board Book collections from the Kids Library. The KDHE has indicated that the high likelihood that these materials will be put in the mouths of young children makes this collection difficult to keep disinfected.
  • Temporarily remove the book and toy collections from the Westridge Mall Book Nooks for the same reasons.
  • A number of Red Carpet sites have requested suspension of services for the time being. We have been in contact with the other sites to confirm their preference in receiving services. In some cases, we will be providing scaled back services to some sites based on their preferences.

In addition to these changes, we have made the following decisions:

  • Suspend all travel to conferences or training through the end of May.  Staff who have something scheduled before June need to cancel all travel arrangements as soon as possible.
  • The Friends of the Library book sale scheduled for March 27-29, has been canceled. This event may be rescheduled.
  • At this time there are no additional cancelations.

Library Closing Procedures

If the decision to close the library to the public is made, we’ll continue to use the building as a “processing center,” checking in and receiving books, providing telephone and online reference services,

producing online programming like story times. We’re working on creative ways we can continue services if we have to physically close to the public. We will also work with Harvesters and the Millennium Café to ensure that kids have access to their regularly scheduled snack in the afternoons.  We are also identifying essential services and staff needed to continue on-going services and operations if closing is deemed necessary.

Timecard and Leave Time Issues

As of now employee leave will be managed in accordance with our Inclement Conditions policy. Please refer to policy 7.11 and check with your supervisor if you have specific questions. These practices could change as we continue to monitor the situation.

  • If an employee is ill and unable to come to work or should not come to work due to illness or, a family member is ill that they need to provide care for, they need to use their own leave. We want to again emphasize for employees not to come to work if they are sick.
  • If schools close for COVID-19 concerns and an employee needs to stay home with a child for an extended period of time, we will allow the employee to use Inclement Conditions Leave time.
  • If the library or certain services close:
    • We will operate under Inclement Conditions. All benefited employees would be paid for hours they are normally scheduled to work. We will also pay shelving assistants for the hours they are normally scheduled to work even though the policy does not require it as we feel it is the right thing to do.
    • Employees identified as essential may need to work from home or come into the library on a rotating basis to enhance social distancing. Those assignments and guidelines will be developed in order to maintain operations.
  • If an employee plans to travel to or has traveled to an area that has had confirmed cases of COVID-19 they must report that to their supervisor before returning to work.  We will consult with local health officials to determine next steps.

Basic Health and Hygiene Tips

All public and staff areas, the Learn & Play Bus, and the bookmobiles are cleaned on a regular basis using several antibacterial products in liquid and aerosol forms to disinfect touchpoints. We are also keeping hand sanitizers available at all public service counters, though Ivan indicated that supplies are becoming scarce.

This week posters demonstrating proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette have been installed in the library’s restrooms in both English and Spanish. These instructions include information on how to:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday, the ABC song twice or Staying Alive)
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands
  • Routine wiping and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with something other than your hand

We know that libraries are shared public spaces. For the health and safety of others, please be thoughtful about coming into a library if you are exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms. Please do your part to stop the spread of germs and disease.

If you are sick, please stay home.

Always remember that public libraries are a trusted resource and we’re making sure we can respond and communicate effectively and accurately as the situation changes.

There is information at and we will have a COVID-19 page to keep the public updated on what we are doing and how services may be impacted.


Will we ask customers to leave if they are coughing or exhibiting other symptoms?

No.  The COVID-19 team is communicating daily with KDHE and the Shawnee County Health Department to provide a safe environment to staff and the public during this pandemic. We have added signage in both Spanish and English to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since we are not medical experts, we cannot diagnose whether the public is infected, so we plan to continue to help our patrons as usual. Feel free to put some distance between you and the customer (6-10 feet) and to go wash your hands when the interaction is done. If staff have concerns that a team room, study table, or computer needs to be disinfected after the customer leaves, there will be disinfecting products at public workstations for staff to use.

What do we tell customers if they ask us if we are closing/cancelling a program?

As soon as any decisions are made regarding cancelation of services, we will alert staff and the public.  Programs/events will be canceled using Communico and service cancellations will be issued via a combination of website and social media notices. The texting service for the Learn & Play bus will notify subscribers of any change in its schedule. Any programs or services that have not been canceled should be assumed to still be proceeding as planned.  Please be aware that our status is dependent on the health needs of our community and changes may occur based on what we hear from the CDC, KDHE, and others.

Don’t we need to wipe every book down after it is returned?

Our watchwords for COVID-19 are responsive and reasonable.  We will maintain as clean and hygienic a facility as we can, but we will not be cleaning all books as they are returned. That is not physically possible, and a book may be handled multiple times before it is returned to a shelf and picked up by a customer. We also asked the KDHE specifically about this issue and were told that they were not overly concerned about our collections, except for the Board Books.  As a result, we have temporarily removed board books from circulation.

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