Reading Has Not Been Canceled but Libraries Should be Closed

We are encouraging libraries to close and to quickly transition to digital services while continuing to pay staff during this disruption. 

Here at EveryLibrary, our mission is to ensure that libraries are open and well-funded, and that staff have the resources they need to serve their communities, schools, and campuses. This is why we are grieving alongside our colleagues as libraries are forced to close in the face of COVID-19. But the threats to our communities’ health are too significant not to close, and we do not want to see a single library worker fall ill because of their job. Therefore, we are encouraging libraries to close and to quickly transition to digital services while continuing to pay staff during this disruption. 

The health and well-being of both staff and patrons matter most, but the need for reading, education, and enjoyment hasn’t changed. While closing to the public and moving to remote work is a difficult process, there are many examples from libraries that have already closed their doors in a manner that respects the needs of the community and ensures the safety of the staff. Below are a few examples from libraries that have responsibly shut their doors while encouraging the continued use of various digital and online library services.

 With digital and online resources from the community - plus support for library staff - we know that we can take care of each other and still fulfill our mission as libraries. The stories of people parked at the library, sitting in their cars because they need to use an otherwise-closed library’s wifi are sad to hear. The stories of students who are cut off from their studies - except for their school librarian going to great lengths to make sure they are connected -will have a generational impact. The stories of librarians reaching out to homebound patrons while the librarians themselves are ‘sheltering in place’ are extraordinary. 

In the face of so much need, we know our library colleagues will continue to do everything that they can to help. But we also believe that the COVID-19 crisis should demonstrate to elected officials and everyday Americans exactly how important you are. Here at EveryLibrary, we see that our role is to do our best to tell the true story of libraries and librarians to the media and policymakers. 

To that end, we have developed several stories for the public about high-quality, free online and digital resources from libraries that we are also sharing with the media. We want writers and producers outside the library world to know about these solutions and to add them to their coverage. We would like public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries to get the credit they deserve for standing in the gaps. 

People across the county and students from every zip code will benefit from what our library colleagues do during this time of crisis. From where we stand today, we urge elected officials and administrators who have not yet closed the library to close the library. Even as this present crisis develops we remain focused on the future of library funding. EveryLibrary is working closely with over a dozen libraries who are on the ballot in 2020 and early 2021 with funding measures, levies, and referendum. We are gearing up to talk to policymakers and elected officials in new ways and we are always ready to help school librarians if program budgets and positions are threatened. Looking ahead, we want to work alongside you and other library leaders to ensure that each and every library is well funded, properly staffed, and recognized for its critical role during this crisis. 

John Chrastka
Executive Director