Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

The current situation is changing daily, or even more frequently.  This page has been created to collect official statements, news, and information from the MBLC regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Most Recent Statement from the Board:

May 8, 2020 - MBLC and MLS Response to Reopening Advisory Board

MBLC Service Updates

May 27, 2020
May 20, 2020
May 13, 2020
May 6, 2020
April 29, 2020
April 22, 2020
April 15, 2020
April 8, 2020
April 1, 2020

Most Recent Program and Department Updates:

June 1, 2020 - CARES Act Grants - Virtual Programming Opens
May 21, 2020 - MBLC/MLS Issue Resuming Full Service Guidelines
April 3, 2020 - State Aid Policy Updates for FY2021
March 25, 2020 - PJ Drive Update
March 16, 2020 - Commonwealth Catalog requests suspended
March 16, 2020 - Construction Reporting paused (Lauren Stara)

Important Links:

Statewide Online Resources for the public
We're in this Together: Free Digital Library
MLS Coronavirus LibGuide
MSLA Virtual School Librarian
Massachusetts Department of Public Health Coronavirus Resources

Outside Statements:

Massachusetts Library Association
New England Library Association
American Library Association

June 1, Virtual Programming Grants Open

Mon 6/1/2020 12:01AM


The application for Virtual Programming for Distance Learning is now open!

This grant opportunity is one way the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is using CARES Act funding. Libraries may use Virtual Programming for Distance Learning grants to support increased public access to library virtual programs.  Programming for all ages should be consideredLibraries are strongly encouraged to work with local museums and local cultural institutions to enhance virtual programming. 

Any library that is a member of MLS can apply. Public libraries must be certified in state aid. These are the only eligibility requirements for this grant. Libraries may apply for funding between $1000-$3500. Applications are due June 19, 2020. We anticipate notifying libraries of their award status in early July. Funds must be spent by September 30, 2021. Grant funds can only pay for costs incurred after a signed contract. We cannot reimburse for earlier expenses.

More information about the grant, including eligible costs, can be found on our website. 

If you have any questions about the grant or application, please get in touch with me.​

Lyndsay Forbes
Project Manager and Grants Specialist
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
(617) 725-1860 ext. 252

Previous Updates:

Please note the information in prior updates may have been superseded by the most recent statement.

MBLC/MLS Issue Resuming Full Service Guidelines

Thu May 21, 2020 5:21PM

Good Afternoon,

With the release of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Reopening Massachusetts Report earlier this week plans for libraries transitioning from virtual to physical services has begun in earnest. The process of returning to our buildings, redeploying staff, and reengaging with our users is complex and serious work given the health and safety risks around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MBLC and MLS have been responding to numerous questions around how libraries should resume full services to meet community needs while, more importantly, keeping staff and library users safe. With no play book to refer to, we held a series of 10 information gathering sessions in association with the nine automated library networks and heard from over 575 librarians from across the state. These sessions proved to be invaluable to identify common concerns and challenges facing libraries of all sizes.

These sessions helped to create the materials that we are making available on the MLS COVID-19 LibGuide today ( We hope that the information will help libraries to create a well-informed phased resumption of service plans that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of their community and help to better engage their local municipal leaders in the process.

Although guidance and best practices below were created for public librarians, it is our hope that other library types may find the info useful.

  • Guidelines: Today we are releasing Phase 1 guidance. This document provides details and best practices drawn from national library examples and expert recommendations from State, Federal, and scientific agencies. Additional guidance will be added as phases move forward.
  • Road map: This document provides a general overview of operational priorities and needed resources across the 4 phases of the Massachusetts Reopening Commission recommendations.  It can be used with staff and local municipal leaders to gain an understanding of the many steps that will be involved in the process.
  • Plan templates: Included are sample policies and templates to help you create documentation specific to your library.

We are also preparing an FAQ to answer specific detailed common questions that came out of this process. The documents released today should be seen as living documents. Changes and updates will be made due to significant changes in state reporting of COVID-19 cases, and on changing understanding of Coronavirus science and safety protocol as outlined by state and federal agencies.

Many thanks go out to our nine Library Automated Network administrators for their help in quickly pulling together our listening sessions and to the many people who joined us to share their many insights.

In addition we would like to thank the staffs of the MBLC and MLS for their guidance, expertise, and the amazing work that they do on a daily basis to help our libraries navigate these stressful and uncertain times.

Be well and be safe out there!

Maura Deedy
Library Advisory Specialist – MBLC

Terry McQuown
Consulting & Training Services Director - MLS

Rob Favini
Head of Library Advisory and Development - MBLC

Sarah Sogigian
Executive Director - MLS

MBLC and MLS Response to Reopening Advisory Board

Fri 5/8/2020

MBLC and MLS Response to Reopening Advisory Board

Once public health guidelines are released, what do you anticipate to be the greatest barriers for businesses to reopen and employees to return to work in the Commonwealth?

The library community (369 public libraries, 6,000+ full and part time employees) is concerned with configuring buildings to comply with social distancing practices in both public and staff areas. Public libraries in Massachusetts generate over 37 million visits per year. This high volume of traffic makes it essential that libraries carefully plan for the flow of patron traffic and the reduction of congestion points.

Another concern is the need to reimagine plans of service delivery. Many of the services and programs available at libraries involve close human contact ranging from a children’s story hour, to one-on-one computer instruction, to live performances. Communities served by libraries across the commonwealth have come to rely on these and reimagining them will be a challenge. Continuity of service is crucial as our libraries will be dynamic local partners in workforce development and extended education to students of all ages as the economy reopens.

Overall, there is a barrier in understanding how to implement public health guidelines locally, particularly when municipalities have the authority to make their own recommendations. Directives at the state level would resolve confusion and create statewide standards.

Has your business, industry or group already developed a playbook for returning to work when the public health response permits a phased reopening to ensure the safety of the workplace, employees, and the general public?

The Board of Library Commissioners, in partnership with our affiliate the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), is working on a phased plan to guide libraries towards resuming full services. In addition to in-library services, the guidance will include the restarting of the MLS’s statewide library material delivery service. This vital service connects Massachusetts public library collections from Provincetown to Williamstown.

Library reopening guidelines will focus on several stages that will bring libraries back to full service. The process begins with a pre-opening stage that will enable library staff to ready their facilities for welcoming users in an environment that will be safe for staff and users alike. This will be followed by a phase that will introduce limited service hours concentrating on social distancing and the safe handling of library materials. At this stage libraries might introduce limited hours and services that include a reduced number of staff and users in the building simultaneously, curbside service, and the continuation of online and virtual resources and programming.  Subsequent phases may include allowing users into the building for limited visits, at a reduced capacity, and by-appointment use of computers. The final phase will be the resumption of full library services and hours, which can only be realized once public health measures are put into place.

What are the most critical enablers for your industry / stakeholder group to reopen in the near term (supplies like masks and gloves, transportation, childcare, consumer confidence, etc.)?

Due to the large number of daily library visits and the excessive handling of a variety of materials with multiple types of surfaces (paper, plastic, metal) staff safety is a primary concern. Libraries will be looking to their local health departments and municipal leaders to provide guidance on a number of safety issues. Those municipal leaders will be looking to the report of the Reopening Advisory Board.

Some of the most pressing concerns that need to be addressed before libraries can return to full service include:

  • Safe occupancy guidance for municipalities and libraries that includes: number of people allowed in the building, patron traffic flow help, use of alternate exits to reduce entrance congestion, Plexiglas barrier installation, staff density guidelines, guidance around the need for taking the temperature all who enter the building
  • Guidance around materials handling, surface decontamination and effective quarantining directly applicable to library materials (books, magazines, DVDs, computer keyboards, tablets, photo copiers, furniture, educational materials, games, and puzzles, to name a few)
  • A clear plan that outlines access to PPE, disinfecting materials and the responsibility for acquiring these items on the municipal level
  • A clear understanding of who will provide training to staff on the effective use of PPE and disinfecting materials
  • Municipal human resource protocols for staff who become ill and the provision of mental health resources for returning staff
  • Access to childcare for both library workers and the public, during a time period where schools/daycares are closed and libraries are heavily used by the public to support summer reading and learning programs

Should a phased reopening begin in the near term, how much advanced notice would your industry or group need to reopen effectively in the near term?

In order to complete phase one, building preparation before opening, several weeks of lead time will be needed.

What other factors should be considered when planning for a phased reopening outside of public health guidelines and industry specific needs?

Initially managing the number of users returning to the library will be a key objective. This will minimize crowding and allow libraries to maintain social distancing measures. It is important that libraries coordinate their openings with surrounding municipalities, day care providers and schools so they aren’t overrun. Any management of this concern on a state or countywide basis will be welcomed.

Another concern of libraries has been the varying degree of consistency on the municipal level in interpreting and carrying out the Governor’s recommendations. This has led to an inconsistent landscape of library services during the current stay at home order. This may create bigger issues as we move out of the stay at home order.

Library staffs have also expressed the need for guidance in two areas of managing visitors to the library. First is the enforcement of mandatory mask wearing orders and social distancing protocols with members of the public who do not follow the orders and protocols. Second is the need for understanding how to manage vulnerable populations who use the building. Specifically, can a public library legally limit use of the building by elderly patrons who may be susceptible to the coronavirus and children who are too young to understand and practice social distancing. In addition, many of our libraries are refuges to people experiencing homelessness or unable to frequent other establishments due to the cost of entry. There are concerns that enforcing state directives such as masks, as well as explaining there is a limit to services will further alienate an already vulnerable population.

Previous Updates:

Please note the information in prior updates may have been superseded by the most recent statement.

State Aid Update

Fri 4/3/2020 1:25PM

Hello All,

In an effort to support libraries participating in the State Aid to Public Libraries Program as they cope with this emergency, the Board of Library Commissioners approved changes to the State Aid Program Standards Policies at their monthly Board meeting on April 2, 2020. The full Emergency Changes Overview statement and the Emergency Preamble approved yesterday for FY 2020 and FY 2021 can be found at the link below. There will be other updates as we assess the ongoing crisis and determine how best the MBLC can support you, your staff, your libraries, and the communities you serve.

Rather than address the changes individually in each of the ten policies for both 2020 and 2021, the modifications are reflected and were approved through an Emergency Preamble to the State Aid to Public Libraries Program Policies which has been added to the State Aid Policies section of the website and as a preface to the printed versions of the policy documents going forward.

Please let me know if you have questions. Good luck and stay well and safe.

Mary Rose

Mary Rose Quinn

Head of State Programs /Government Liaison
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Previous Updates:

Please note the information in prior updates may have been superseded by the most recent statement.

March 25, PJ Drive Update

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 1:18 PM

Good afternoon,

With all the uncertainty we find ourselves in, it’s understandable that for many of us our attention has moved on to other matters. But we wanted to take a moment to thank the hundreds of libraries who participated in the 13th Annual Boston Bruins PJ drive.  With so much economic uncertainty for so many, now more than ever, kids are going to need the comfort and normalcy that a pair of pajamas and a good book can bring.

Some libraries are still holding PJs in their buildings, some PJs are still at MLS’ delivery warehouses and some libraries have not be able to report out their final numbers—and that’s OK.  But we’d like to celebrate that more than 7,500 pajamas were collected by libraries! The Jonathan Bourne Public Library had another fantastic year and collected 3,564. So many kids and their families will benefit from your participation and from the community’s generosity.

When we are able, we will get out and pick up the remaining PJs, release final totals and announce winners. Prizes were to be for this year’s Bruins games, but whether those games will be played is still undetermined. MBLC staff has talked with the Bruins about some options should the games not be played.

Stay safe, stay well and let us know if you have any questions,
Your PJ Team:

Commonwealth Catalog Update

Mon 3/16/2020 4:41 PM

ComCat Requesting Shutdown Until Further Notice

Requesting items in ComCat will be shutdown until further notice effective Monday, March 16 2020. In light of the Coronavirus outbreak, many libraries are closed to protect the public, staff, and volunteers. Delivery services have also shutdown as a precautionary measure, making inter-library loan impossible at this time. Please see your library's website for local closures and updates on services.

Construction Update

Monday, March 16, 2020 15:38

Suspension of monthly reporting for construction projects

Hello all,

I and the rest of the staff at the MBLC hope that you and your staff members are staying safe during this turbulent and uncertain time. Although we are working from home, we are available by email or voicemail (we will return phone calls) if you have any questions about how the MBLC aspects of your construction project may be impacted in the near future.

We are suspending the requirement for monthly reporting at this point. No February reports will be due at the end of the month, and we'll keep you posted as to when reporting will resume and exactly what we'll require.

For those of you under construction, please stay in touch regarding the status of your project -- if construction goes on hiatus, let us know.

If you have any questions, contact me or Andrea at any time. We probably won't know the answers but will try to get them for you.

Above all, your safety is our greatest concern. Take care of yourselves!

All the best,


Lauren Stara
Library Building Specialist
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners