News Release

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

DATE: October 22, 2009
CONTACT: Celeste Bruno
Communications Specialist
1-800-952-7403 x208

Pandemic Flu Planning for Public Libraries

State and Municipal Planning for Potential H1N1 Outbreak Continues

In an effort to assist public libraries in planning for a pandemic flu situation, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has compiled the following information.

As with current local emergency preparedness plans, the focus for pandemic flu planning should be on prevention, preparedness, and response.  Pandemic flu planning should be incorporated into local emergency preparedness plans, and public libraries can play a critical role in distributing information and helping to keep the public informed. In this process, please consider the unique challenges of a pandemic flu that may need to be addressed in your library. The level of involvement with local or state emergency plans should be determined in advance.

Public libraries should work with their municipality 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 should work with local health officials 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 should 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's Professional Tips Wiki ( includes a resource page for Pandemic Planning ( with the following list of topics that should be considered in developing a library policy:

  • Criteria for closing the library
  • Employee policies for sick leave, payroll and banking/financial issues, working from home
  • Mandated documentation of procedures or cross training so others can take over for sick employees
  • Policies for "social distancing"- that is removing a number of chairs so people aren't sitting close to each other, or limiting the number of people who can come in at any one time.
  • Criteria for suspending story times and other library programs
  • Provision of masks and gloves, along with the training of staff in their removal and disposal.
  • Standards for the cleaning of bathrooms, railings and door knobs, telephones, keyboards, counters, and cleaning of workstations/offices of employees who go home sick, emptying of wastebaskets, etc.
  • Setting a schedule for seeing to the critical needs of the facility if the library is closed for an extended time (boiler and building checks by custodians, book drop, payroll and banking considerations)
  • Communications plan for reaching staff and for communicating with the public
  • Means for continuing to provide information services for the public, such as on-line ordering of materials and pick up from a table in the lobby at certain times or expansion of on-line services
  • Accommodation of the needs of poor people in the community who may not have a home subscription to the local newspaper or a working home computer
  • Education of the public in advance of an epidemic.

Information about the current H1N1 virus outbreak (swine influenza) can be found at  The site includes current information, national and international resources, links to news articles, as well as pandemic planning checklists that may be of interest for local government planning as well as resources for families and businesses in the library's service area.  There is an H1N1 fact sheet put out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at

The federal government has created a site for current consumer flu information,, including information on the immunization campaign, a map with links to information in individual states, a "flu watch" section, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), and a current news section.

In addition to the state and national resources posted at, the U.S Center for Disease Control maintains a site of information about H1N1 outbreak

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.

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