Guidance Content & Protocols

This collection of tools, developed and updated by units across the American Library Association, will help communities, library workers, and library supporters plot the best course forward for their libraries. Get up-to-date information on protecting library staff and your community as you plan for reinstating a full range of library services and programs.

The current coronavirus pandemic has upended the ways that communities interact with spaces, with things, and with each other. Even as we seek to resume the valuable services and programs that libraries and library staff provide, there is a recognition that the standard ways of doing things may not align with current public health guidance.

The following resources point to new guidelines and protocols, some standardized and some in process and development.



Among the most urgent and complicated processes following many states’ and localities’ stay at home orders was the reopening of physical spaces and the services that happen within them.

Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Developed by Theresa Chmara, general counsel for the Freedom to Read Foundation, and approved by the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee on June 8, 2020, the Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic include review of federal, state, and local laws, including agency recommendations, such as those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

State-by-State Guidelines for Library Reopenings or Library Services During the Pandemic

State library agencies, cooperatives, and consortia have provided local leadership to support reopening of library services or the provision of library services during the pandemic. Provided below are state-by-state guidelines and resources – please note that some documents are working documents and may continue to be updated.


Information and Education Resources for Reopening

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee - Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authored by the Freedom to Read Foundation’s General Counsel, Theresa Chmara, and approved by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) this document helps answer some of the frequently asked questions about upholding safety while offering library services during an unprecedented time. The guidelines address protecting staff health and wellness, and legal aspects of health checks, face mask requirements, the use of sign-in logs, and requests for users to leave libraries. The resource also offers next steps in reviewing policies.

United for Libraries - Working Together on Planning, Policy and Legal Issues for Reopening a Public Library: The Board, the Attorney and the Librarian

Presented by ALA’s Public Policy & Advocacy Office and Chapter Relations Office and United for Libraries, this webinar explores how library boards can work together with legal counsel and others to address legal questions; change policies as needed; and anticipate, communicate, and prepare for what comes next. May 15, 2020.

Association of College and Research Libraries - Pandemic Resources for Academic Libraries: Preparing to Reopen

The Association of College and Research Libraries’ libguide compiles a wealth of resources for considering the reopening of academic libraries and what higher education will look like in the wake of COVID-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emergency Partners Information Connection (EPIC)

EPIC provides an array of resources - webinars, newsletters, continuing education - provided by partner organizations committed to helping people stay safer and healthier during a public health emergency.

Additional Resources to Support Reopening

Centers for Disease Control – Communities, Schools, Workplaces, and Events

The CDC's Communities, Schools, Workplaces, and Events page features guidance for K-12 schools and child care programs; colleges, universities, and other higher learning; and businesses and workplaces. Additional resources for worker safety and support and cleaning and disinfecting will be important regardless of library type.

Council of State Governors (CSG) – COVID-19 Resources for State Leaders

The Council of State Governors’ COVID-19 Resources for State Leaders page includes an up-to-date listing of executive orders, searchable by state, by classification, or concerning re-openings.

Centers for Disease Control – State and Territory Health Department Websites

The Centers for Disease Controls’ Public Health Professionals Gateway includes a directory of state and territory health departments’ websites, an easy way to access state-level public health information and guidance.

National Association of County and City Health Officials - Director of Local Health Departments

The National Association of County and City Health Officials' Directory of Local Health Departments allows users to search by state or zip code.

American College of Health Associations (ACHA) - Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era (PDF)

Guidelines from the American College Health Association for reopening higher education institutions in the wake of COVID-19. May 7, 2020.

American Industrial Hygiene Association - Reopening: Guidance for Libraries

Guidelines for reopening libraries from the American Industrial Hygiene Association. May 26, 2020. Additional resources from AIHA include Workplace Cleaning for COVID-19, Recovering from COVID-19 Building Closures, and Reopening Guidance documents for General Office Settings, Museums and Collecting Institutions, Institutions of Higher Education, and more.

American Association of University Professors (AAUP) - Guidance for Reopening Campuses

The AAUP's guidance considers logistical and health and safety concerns as well as concerns for how best to achieve the academic mission both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath.


Distance Learning and Services

As libraries and library workers expand access to distance learning, services, and programs, they are adapting and evolving best practices to maximize value for their communities.

Information and Education Resources from ALA.

Association of College and Research Libraries - ACRL Standards for Distance Learning and Library Services

The Association of College and Research Libraries’ Standards for Distance Learning Library Services affirm that students, faculty members, administrators, staff members, or any other members of an institution of higher education are entitled to the library services and resources of that institution, including direct communication with the appropriate library personnel, regardless of where they are physically located in relation to the campus; where they attend class in relation to the institution’s main campus; or the modality by which they take courses. The standards make clear that distance learning and library services require commitments from both the institution and the library and outline requirements and consideration for the provision of these services.

Association of College and Research Libraries - Information Literacy at a (Social) Distance: Strategies for Moving Online

The Association of College and Research Libraries presents a webinar featuring Melissa Wong, adjunct Lecturer at the iSchool University of Illinois at Chicago, with guidance for moving library instruction online, covering both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, student engagement in active learning while online, and best practices. March 17, 2020.

Association of College and Research Libraries - Pandemic Pedagogy: Resources for Library Instruction at a Distance

The Association of College and Research Libraries presents a facilitated conversation exploring tools, resources, and strategies for shifting information literacy to support remote teaching and learning, led by Jenn Kelley, Associate Professor/Reference Librarian at the College of DuPage. March 18, 2020.

Association of College & Research Libraries - Copyright for Campus Exploring the Copyright Issues around Moving Instruction and Reference Online Closures

This presentation and Q&A session with Sara R. Benson, copyright librarian at the University of Illinois iSchool and editor of ACRL’s Copyright Conversations: Rights Literacy in a Digital World, provides information on the copyright issues involved in rapidly moving your instruction and reference online. March 20, 2020


International Resources

As libraries and library workers around the world respond to a global pandemic, the resources, guidance, and collaboration from international colleagues continues to be critically important.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions - COVID-19 and the Global Library Field

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has compiled resources for libraries in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, including information on library closures around the world, reopening libraries, and actions by associations, national libraries, and library partners.

National Authorities on Public Libraries in Europe - Public Libraries in Europe and COVID-19: Findings from NAPLE Members

The National Authorities on Public Libraries in Europe (NAPLE) have provided two reports covering European public libraries’ responses to the COVID situation. The first (March 20 - April 24) and second (May - July) reports share findings from 22 European countries regarding the way that COVID-19 affected public library services, with a focus on re-opening strategies and approaches; quarantining of books and other health and safety measures; and other issues that have emerged over the last several months.


Materials Handling

Books, magazines, videos, and other materials remain among the most popular and recognizable of library services. But as public health officials continue to research and learn about virus transmission, there are understandable concerns for library materials handling.

Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Information Hub: A COVID-19 Research Project

OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle are currently conducting research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums. The project will draw upon the research to produce authoritative, science-based information on how—or if— materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors.

American Libraries Magazine - How to Sanitize Collections in a Pandemic

Guided by advice from conservation and preservation specialists, libraries are advised to isolate materials as the most available means of disinfecting; invest in cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces in the library; and exercise caution when using cleaning solvents on books and other potentially fragile library materials. March 27, 2020.

Association for Library Collections and Technical Services - Handling Library Materials and Collections During a Pandemic

The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) has prepared a resource to guide libraries through the handling of library materials and collections, including the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)'s recommendations for disinfecting books and other materials and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) guidance for disinfecting cultural resources.



Even during a public health emergency, libraries are still bound by requirements to protect the privacy and confidentiality of library users in order to preserve and protect their civil liberties and their right to receive information.

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Privacy Subcommittee - Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy

Created by the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Privacy Subcommittee, these guidelines assist libraries in maintaining user privacy as they face new challenges in upholding library workers’ commitment to not monitor, track, or profile an individual’s library use beyond libraries’ operational needs.

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Privacy Subcommittee - Protecting Privacy in a Pandemic

The Privacy Subcommittee of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee hosted a Protecting Privacy in a Pandemic Town Hall and made available a Resource Guide outlining considerations for providing access to library resources while maintaining the profession’s commitment to patron privacy.

Library and Information Technology Association - A Crash Course in Protecting Library Data While Working from Home

The Library and Information Technology Association’s (LITA) webinar guides library workers in protecting patron data as they adjust to the new normal of working from home. Viewers will learn to identify and understand key risks to library data privacy and security from a rapid shift to working from home; strategies and tools for mitigating common privacy and security risks to library data when working from home; and steps for assessing and planning to protect library data while working remotely for the long term.


School Libraries

The following resources from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) provide guidance for the unique needs of school libraries.

The AASL Learning Library (ALL)

The AASL Learning Library (ALL) contains a wealth of FREE resources to help school library professionals whose schools have closed during this pandemic. From webinars to presentations to Knowledge Quest articles and issues, ALL has the resources school librarians need to engage with learners and update their professional practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the following free resources that may help school librarians during the pandemic:

American Association of School Librarians - Pandemic Resources for School Librarians

A compilation of resources developed by AASL, including information about AASL town halls, the AASL Complimentary Resources Clearinghouse, Knowledge Quest posts, and more.

American Association of School Librarians - School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions

School librarians fulfill five important roles: instructional partner, teacher, leader, information specialist, and program administrator, all of which highlight the profession’s skill at building relationships and creating an inclusive school culture. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools need this librarian skill set more than ever as they adapt to meet the current needs of learners in a constantly changing learning environment. Chart & Resources | Chart Only



The following resources were suggested by the Public Library Association's (PLA) Social Worker Task Force

Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety

An interactive and up-to-date resource from Mental Health America and Shine, with free meditations, information on isolation, and how to structure your day. It also has tips on how to talk to children about the virus.

Coursera (Offered by Yale University) - The Science of Well-Being

A free, structured online learning course with videos and readings, where you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. Offered by Yale University.

The Happiness Lab Podcast

A podcast by Yale professor Dr Laurie Santos (of The Science of Well-Being course) that will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will forever alter the way you think about happiness.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide

This COVID-19 resource document addresses questions about anxiety, health insurance, losing a loved one, and more.

U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Department of Health and Human Services) - Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health

This tip sheet from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes feelings and thoughts you may have during and after social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. It also suggests ways to care for your behavioral health during these experiences and provides resources for more help."


Virtual Programming and Service

As libraries expand access to distance services, they have also increased the availability of virtual programming, especially popular programming for children and youth. Quality virtual programming can be of incredible value to children and families - but it may also revive caregivers' concerns for their children's screen time.

Association for Library Service to Children - Screen Time Tips for Parents and Caregivers

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is currently working on resources to support media mentoring efforts among library professionals as they work with parents, caregivers and youth to identify materials to assist with understanding and facilitating difficult issues related to COVID-19. Media mentoring is a term used to describe working with others to support in decisions and practice around the use of digital and print media.

Association for Library Service to Children - Virtual Storytime Services Guide

As libraries of all types expand their digital collections and explore virtual programming, we offer this guide as a resource to those seeking to offer or improve storytime services from afar. While this guide primarily focuses on virtual storytime, it also includes helpful resources and suggestions for other online library experiences and virtual children’s programs.