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COVID-19 Guidance for School Libraries

15 May 2020   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Administrator
COVID-19 Guidance for School Libraries


Last updated on: 20th June 2020

Preamble

This Guidance has been developed by a Working Party convened jointly by CILIP, the CILIP School Libraries Group (CILIP SLG) and the School Library Association (SLA). It will be updated periodically when new information becomes available. If this information is printed, please ensure that it is dated and refer back to this page for the latest version.

Schools and school libraries differ vastly in their size, governance and operations. We cannot provide detailed and specific guidance that fits every eventuality. This page therefore presents general guidance that can be used in dialogue with your Head and/or Senior Leadership Team when planning for the re-commencement of library services disrupted by COVID-19.

The purpose of this Guidance is to inform discussions between school library staff and school leadership about the safe re-commencement of physical and digital library services in primary and secondary schools. This dialogue should emphasise above all other considerations the safety and welfare of everyone who interacts with the library, including pupils, teaching staff, library staff and volunteers.

Disclaimer

At the time of writing, COVID-19 is still an unfolding public health emergency. School library staff should ensure that they keep themselves informed on and act in accordance with the latest guidance from the Government, Public Health agencies and the policies of their school.

This Guidance presumes that a prior decision has been taken that it is safe for the school to re-open (or to re-open fully where it has remained open to key worker families during the pandemic). The Working Party fully endorse the guidance provided by the Unions on when this should be, and particularly the National Education Union (NEU) ‘5 tests before schools can re-open’.

If a physical school library space or face-to-face services are re-opened (or extended following a period of restriction) before these tests are met, we strongly recommend that the protective measures set out in this Guidance should be strengthened.

This Guidance further presumes that school library staff are not themselves in a clinically vulnerable category, are not ‘shielding’ or caring for or living with someone who is. If the staff involved fall into one of these categories, it is essential that they discuss their concerns with their employer, undertake a risk assessment and agree measures to protect their health and welfare before implementing this Guidance.

Neither CILIP, CILIP SLG nor SLA are able to accept liability for loss or damages arising from the use of this guidance.

This guidance can be used by members all across the UK but members in Scotland should also refer to the CILIP Scotland website for nation-specific public health guidance links and timelines.


DOWNLOADS

The following documents have been provided by the School Library Association and members of the Working Party. They should be used at your own risk.

Helen Emery at King Edward VI School in Lichfield has shared their book selector form, which will help her provide a service while the library site is closed. Students can access her Library Management System, request a book and library staff post or deliver to them, or drop to another location in school. If a student doesn't know what to read, they complete the questionnaire (soon to be an electronic form, emailed to the librarian) and staff choose a range of stock (say 3 books) as recommendations. As students have their own logins, staff can add individual reading suggestions to a student's account for them to view online and choose.

We have also provided a Briefing Note for Heads, Senior Leaders and Governors to help you articulate the case for a professional school librarian in supporting your school.


SUMMARY GUIDANCE

Please click on the subject heading to view the content of that section.

A thriving library led by a professional librarian or library worker is an integral component of a healthy school that delivers excellence in teaching and learning. Planning to re-commence library services (or to lift restrictions on services imposed during COVID-19) is a necessary and positive step for your school.

When planning for the re-commencement of services that have been disrupted due to COVID-19, we recommend you consider the following:

  • Re-commencing services should take a risk-managed approach which recognises the unique needs, circumstances and capabilities of each school and its community.

  • Re-commencing services should happen as the result of an informed dialogue between school leadership and school library staff.

  • This guidance is intended to apply to school libraries in primary and secondary schools. Provision in special schools is not covered within the scope of this guidance.

  • It is important to recognise that a school library is much more akin to other shared spaces, such as gyms or the lunch hall, than it is to other learning spaces in the school such as classrooms. Re-commencing school library services therefore represents both an important and positive opportunity and a unique risk profile which must be reflected in school-wide plans.

  • Planning to re-commence school library services should take account of the latest public health guidance and not put learners, teaching staff, library staff, volunteers or other visitors at risk.

  • Planning to re-commence school library services should accommodate a phased approach, recognising the possibility of having to restrict or withdraw services again, should public health or Government guidance require it.

  • Any decision on changes to services following the disruption caused by COVID-19, such as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or physical protective measures such as screens or distancing measures must take into account their wider impact on the pupils, including particularly the impact on the learning experience and on equalities.

  • No changes should be made to school library services in response to the disruption caused by COVID-19 which undermine the safety or welfare of children or young people, nor the school’s responsibilities for safeguarding.

  • Where school library services are provided by an external party such as a 3rd party Schools Library Service (SLS), school leaders should use this guidance to inform a dialogue with them about the safe re-commencement of services.

The Working Party recommends that school library staff use this guidance to inform a structured conversation with school leadership in order to develop a shared plan for the re-opening or re-commencement of library services or the lifting of restrictions on services that were applied in response to COVID-19.

There is an increasing emphasis on the role of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the use of Health & Safety Risk Assessments to inform organisational responses to COVID-19 and developing plans for the safe return to work of staff and users. This dialogue should happen in the context of the school’s overall approach to Risk Assessment.

We would suggest the following structure for this conversation:

Identify the context

It is useful to discuss the overall current threat level for COVID-19 as set out by the UK Government, as well as any guidance pertaining to the school library, including public health guidance, guidance from Unions and other representative associations and guidance relating to the safe re-opening of workspaces.

A set of links to published guidance from these authorities is provided on this page (see below).

Agree shared aims

It is helpful to agree with school leadership what your ambitions are for the re-commencement of library services, to what extent and over what period. It can be useful in doing this to agree a framework or structure of ‘levels’ of service provision (for example on a scale from 0 – ‘fully closed’ to 5 – ‘all library services resumed’). This can help everyone in the school community to understand which services are to be provided and the point at which additional services will re-commence.

Consider priority users

Since social distancing rules make it likely that you will need to manage demand for and use of physical spaces, equipment and stock, it is useful to identify whether there are specific user groups within the school community that ought to be given priority in accessing library services. This may include, for example, groups who are most impacted by the use of the library, or focusing on supporting those who are not at school.

Protect staff and volunteers

The school should maintain a clear policy on the safety and welfare of all staff in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is important to acknowledge that there are specific activities in the school library - such as the lending and borrowing of books, providing a safe and trusted non-classroom learning space or supporting teaching staff – which may require specific measures to protect staff and volunteers.

If staff need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is it important to identify what equipment is needed, of what quality and in what quantity. PPE should be provided by the school, following the relevant DfE guidance. The school will need to have clear mask-wearing advice and have measures in place to enforce this with students if required.

At the same time, school leaders should be aware of the circumstances of staff and volunteers and any non-school commitments such as caring for or living with vulnerable people that are ‘shielding’ from COVID-19. Any planning for the re-commencement of services should take the safety, welfare and circumstances of library staff and volunteers properly into account in accordance with DfE Guidelines (see detailed guidance in the relevant section below).

Address physical spaces

A school library is much more than just a physical space. However, the school library space will be the main point of contact for many users and so it is important to develop a plan for how it will be rendered safe both for use and as a place of work.

It is important to consider the library space in its proper context. How will users get to it? Is there space physically for social distancing? Does the space allow for separate entry and exit points? Are there sufficient staff to allow for ‘crowd control’ during busy times? Are there ‘sanitiser stations’ or equivalent to promote good hand hygiene? Is the space regularly and thoroughly cleaned? Whose responsibility is this?

It is important to have a plan in place which enables library users to observe Government guidance on social distancing and hygiene.The DfE guidance on planning and control hierarchies are useful to aid this planning. See the detailed DfE guidance for classrooms below which may indicate some anticipated measures for the school library.

IT Access and Equipment

Many school libraries now provide access to IT equipment including computers and printers. These can present specific risks where they are to be accessed by multiple users during the course of the day.

The library should have a plan to socially distance students in the computer area, deciding what is safe, and to space out computer station use where possible. This should reduce space in the computer area, so this must be in discussion with SLT and clearly signposted to teachers and other users.

Guidance has been sought about how long the virus lives on keyboards and other IT equipment, and whether it is possible, or desirable, to spray the keyboards, mice and other equipment after every use. If this is required, then provision needs to be made for enough PPE to do this every day - either sprays for equipment or sanitizing hand equipment for every student to use before touching IT equipment, to keep it safe for others to use.

A decision will need to be taken about whether the sharing of computer equipment is safe, and whether the practical implications of that are a suitable use of staff time. If shared equipment is necessary it is important to agree steps to ensure that providing access to shared IT equipment is rendered safe for library users, staff and volunteers. The library may also wish to consider implementing a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policy in conjunction with other IT policies.

Books and resource circulation and browsing

One of the many key functions of a school library is to facilitate access to physical learning materials including books and other resources. These materials can present significant risks of spreading infection, particularly where they transition between multiple locations.

It is essential to establish systems and processes to ensure that incoming and outgoing resources and browsing are rendered safe for library users, staff and volunteers. These might include protocols for quarantining books for a specific period of time, or defining ‘safe handling’ protocols for staff and volunteers, including storage of books until safe to handle.

Library-based events and activities

Although unlikely to be a significant issue in the short-term, in the medium-term it is important to be aware of and plan for the resumption of activities in the school library which may include events such as author visits. A risk assessment will need to be undertaken to establish how risks to pupils, staff and volunteers and external visitors can be kept to a minimum.

In the short term it is important that groups of children do not use the same areas; this is in line with DfE guidance, and means that the plan of resuming ‘normal’ service may have several stages when different pupil groups can use the space. This may mean that the service needs to be adjusted for pupils who are not yet in school, as well as safely facilitating the ones who are.

Communication with parents/families/carers and pupils

Many people are understandably concerned about the risks to children and young people of returning to school, and will want to be assured that the school is doing everything it can to promote their safety and welfare.

At the same time, many parents, families, carers and pupils will be concerned about the disruption to teaching and learning resulting from the public health emergency. The school library has a central role to play in helping learners to minimise the impact of time away from school or not interacting with teaching and learning.

Additionally, many offer clubs and activities that help young people manage their mental health. Details about how the school library is safe, and details of the services available should be communicated to parents along with information about the rest of school.

Communication with school leadership and staff

It is important for school leadership and all staff involved in teaching and learning to understand the role of the school library and how it can help them achieve better outcomes for learners. The plan for re-commencement of library services (or the lifting of limitations on services) should be shared with colleagues across the school to ensure they understand how the library can assist them in their own planning and delivering altered learning.

Write it down

It is worth keeping a note of the outcome of your conversation. It will help to ensure that the process is transparent and accountable and will provide useful context in the event of a similar public health emergency in future. This may feed into the Risk Assessment document, and you can see examples of them completed by members of the working group.


DETAILED GUIDANCE

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Given the DfE guidance that different cohorts don’t mix unnecessarily, it may be useful for school library staff and SLT to identify the groups they see as requiring priority access to the school library. These may be groups that would benefit the most by using the library, perhaps those who are having intervention lessons; they will vary in every school. In some school libraries it may not be realistic to admit any students due to social distancing restrictions.

Where systems are put in place to limit entry to the school library consideration will need to be given to how they will be implemented, for example if there is a solo worker is it realistic for that person to be restricting access on the door and supporting pupils within the school library.

This information will need to be clearly and consistently shared with staff. School libraries often house a number of different groups (children who are out of lessons for a range of reasons etc) and alternative provision may need to be made and communicated.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has provided updated guidance for employers to “make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during the coronavirus pandemic”. This includes 5 key points to create a ‘COVID-secure’ workplace:

  1. Work from home, if you can – employers are expected to have taken ‘reasonable steps’ to support staff in working from home. If, however, it is not possible to deliver the library service from home, the Government guidance is that you should go to work.

  2. Carry out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment in consultation with staff and Trade Unions and where possible publish the results and any actions agreed.

  3. Maintain social distancing wherever possible – employers are encouraged to re-design workspaces where practicable to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

  4. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk, for example by installing barriers, establishing shift patterns or minimising the number of people in a space.

  5. Reinforce cleaning processes, paying particular attention to parts of the space used by many people (such as door handles).

It is important in conducting the ‘COVID-19 Risk Assessment’ that the school takes into account the specific circumstances and needs of individual staff and volunteers in the school library. This should include:

  • Whether the staff member or volunteer can travel safely to and from the school.

  • Whether they themselves have an underlying condition that puts them at risk from COVID-19.

  • Whether they care for or live with another person who is ‘vulnerable’ or at specific risk form COVID-19.

  • Whether they have other caring or family responsibilities that will impact on their working pattern

We would expect school leadership and school library staff to reach a mutually acceptable plan for the re-commencement of services which does not put the individuals concerned at undue risk.

DfE Guidance on the use of PPE

Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended.

PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases including:

  • Children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way;

  • If a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn.


DfE Guidance - safety, welfare and circumstances of library staff

Vulnerable adults

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are advised not to work outside the home. We are strongly advising people, including education staff, who are clinically extremely vulnerable (those with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus and have been advised by their clinician or through a letter) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. Staff in this position are advised not to attend work. Read COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable for more advice.

Clinically vulnerable individuals who are at higher risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre-existing conditions as set out in the Staying at home and away from others (social distancing) guidance have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Education and childcare settings should endeavour to support this, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home.

Living with shielding people

If a child, young person or a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, they can attend their education or childcare setting.

If a child, young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable guidance, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they are able to understand and follow those instructions.



DfE Guidance - Class sizes

For primary schools, classes should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group and one teacher (and, if needed, a teaching assistant). If there are any shortages of teachers, then teaching assistants can be allocated to lead a group, working under the direction of a teacher. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers in other year groups should also be split into small groups of no more than 15. Desks should be spaced as far apart as possible.

For secondary schools and colleges, the same principle of halving classes will normally apply. It is also sensible to rearrange classrooms and workshops with sitting positions 2 metres apart. Where very small classes might result from halving, it would be acceptable to have more than half in a class, provided the space has been rearranged. Again, support staff may be drawn on in the event there are teacher shortages, working under the direction of other teachers in the setting.


Providing alternatives

If you cannot provide a physical service either because it isn’t possible to implement the safety measures in line with guidance from the DfE and government, or because you are shielding, don’t worry, your safety comes first and there are alternatives. Options include:

  • Discuss e-book provision with your SLT; many companies are offering services free for a few months. If this isn’t viable liaise with your public library to disseminate information about their e-book and e-magazine collection.

  • Continue encouraging pupils to read; whether that’s online book clubs, virtual storytelling (in line with current copyright guidelines).

  • Do virtual displays to continue to raise interest; new releases or share news stories and discussion clubs.

  • Reading lists - update and re-share any subject lists you have; many children will want to read around a subject they miss.

  • Update your website/VLE pages; is there anything which needs adapting to the circumstances?

  • Start planning induction lessons; are there links you can share with the cohort over the summer? Could you set a challenge or scavenger hunt over the summer so they come to school with a shared experience? Given the context in which pupils will be coming back to school what will be essential for them in those early weeks?


‘Click and collect’ services

Some library services are exploring the viability of ‘click and collect’ options whereby pupils can browse electronic catalogues and request items to be prepared for them to collect.

While this model can work under some circumstances, it should only be used in the context of a clear risk assessment and a process for both the distribution and return of items where this does not put library staff or volunteers at risk.

Unlike in supermarkets where stock can be moved from a risk-managed warehouse to the point-of-distribution and then forgotten once it is handed off to the customer, libraries have to be aware of the additional risks of re-circulating material that has been in a number of different households.

Items made available through a ‘click and collect’ model ought to be subject to the same quarantine and safe handling measures as any other stock or resources in circulation.


Travelling to the library

Any plan for re-opening library spaces should be taken in the context of how library users and staff will gain access to those spaces, including the use of corridors passageways or any other potentially congested areas.

DfE has expressed the view in their general guidance that “While in general groups should be kept apart, brief, transitory, contact such as passing in a corridor is low risk.”

It is for each school to make a risk-managed assessment of the issues attendant on corridors and other spaces where large volumes of people congregate or pass through during the school day.

Where possible, the plan for re-opening or restoring the school library should be clear about how risks attendant on accessing the space will be minimised.


Entrances and exit points

In addition to considering how people will get to the school library, it is important to consider how they will get into it. Ideally, if at all possible, you should consider designating separate entrance and exit points, to allow for the movement of users through the library while minimising the risk of congestion.

If it is not possible to designate separate entrances and exits, you should consider implementing a priority access or ‘traffic light’ system which allows for the separation of groups entering and leaving the library.

For solo librarians, it may be necessary to solicit support from other school staff or volunteers to help manage the entry and exit systems.


Service points

Public Health England has provided useful advice and guidance on creating ‘COVID-secure’ workspaces, including specific guidance for ‘indoor environments and contact centres’

The primary guidance remains at the time of publication that if staff are able to work from home, that is what they should do. However, there is a general view that the management of face-to-face library services requires staff to be physically present in the library.

In general, the main considerations when creating ‘COVID-secure’ spaces in school libraries should be:

  • Enabling staff, volunteers and users to increase the use of handwashing and hand hygiene, for example by providing ‘Sanitisation Stations’ or signposting washing facilities;

  • Minimising the ‘contact time’ spent in the library;

  • Actively encouraging ‘social distancing’, for example by taping out lines to indicate 2m distance from service desks or using arrows on the floor to encourage users to follow a particular path through the library;

  • Offering physical protection to staff such as PPE, barriers or screens*

* It is worth noting that the use of PPE such as masks may inhibit effective communications with pupils or may in some cases cause undue anxiety. Consideration should be given to whether physical protection measures offer a better experience for library users.

It is important to be clear that nobody can be compelled to work in an unsafe environment. The implementation of physical protection measures should be done as part of an overall risk assessment and agreed between school leadership and library staff.


Space for social distancing

Many high-volume services, such as public transport and retail, are managing customer expectations by being clear about the impact of social distancing on their available capacity. The same is true of the school library - most school libraries operate in a fixed space and are likely to be relatively restricted in how many people they can accommodate with a clear 2m distance between them.

In considering how best to support social distancing for library users, consideration should be given to:

  • The removal or repositioning of furniture (it can be useful to tape a 2m grid on the floor and use this as a guide). Where furniture is removed, it will be important to give adequate consideration to storage and cleaning;

  • Movement control, for example by implementing a one-way system or using directional arrows taped to the floor as a guide;

  • Congestion points, such as entrances, exits, popular parts of the library or service points such as a desk;

  • Managing numbers of concurrent users (for example through a priority system, ‘one in/one out’, timed sessions or similar)

Particular consideration ought to be given to shared learning spaces and whether it is advisable to offer these during COVID-19. While they are a valuable and important part of the library’s teaching and learning support, collaborative learning may also present specific risks that it is difficult for the librarian to manage (particularly where they are a solo librarian).

Any support for shared learning spaces ought to be considered as part of the wider risk assessment for the library space.


Processing materials

There is no single process for processing physical books and other materials into and out of the library. The loaning and return of books, particularly where these travel with pupils to their home, presents a clear risk factor across all library services. Reference should be made when assessing the risks of processing materials to the following considerations:

  • Guidance on infection risks for different material types (see below)

  • Setting up a designated multi-stage quarantine area including:
    • Book return
    • 72-hour quarantine
    • Safe post-quarantine book handling
    • Return to general stock
    • An overall process for monitoring the above

  • Creating a quarantine system/workflow to limit contamination risks (so only one person does the returns process, rather than multiple people)

  • Particular consideration ought to be given to whether pupils will be allowed to ‘browse’ books (ie. pick them from and return them to the shelves), since technically this represents a contact with the item which may carry an infection risk

In general, the above provision for quarantine ought to apply to new stock or resources brought into the library from vendors and suppliers as well as to the loan and return of books by library users.

It may be appropriate to contact vendors, distributors and suppliers to confirm that a risk assessment has been carried out of their facilities and proportionate controls implemented.

Consideration should also be given to physical materials brought into the library by users, such as bags, parcels, pencil cases and other kit. These represent surfaces which themselves may carry some infection risk. It may be advisable to ask library users to leave bags etc. outside the library to reduce the overall risk of contamination (although in reality the extent to which incidental contamination can be excluded entirely is limited).


Cleaning

Cleaning is at the core of enabling the school library to be a safe place for pupils and library staff. The DfE lists cleaning in it’s hierarchy of controls: “ cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach”. There will be no single routine that will work, and the decisions around this will also need to take into account the impact on services, and the degree to which it is practical to enforce an intense cleaning regime.

Decision makers will need to:

  • Identify main risk factors (shared computers; printers which have keypads or touch screens; desks etc) and then decide on what is needed to minimise contamination.

  • Cleaning will be needed after different groups use items, and it may be that access or use is limited to enable priority use (for example shared computers not being accessible during break to allow for use afterwards)

  • A cleaning schedule will need to be decided to allow for core areas to be cleaned. It may be that this varies in the different stages of opening (for example if access is limited to a single group cleaning may only be needed at the end of the day; whereas once the library becomes more usable by more people the cleaning schedule may need to increase). Use of the library may also limit the cleaning materials that can be used.

  • Responsibility for the cleaning schedule will need to be worked out, taking into account the relevant factors; availability of cleaning staff and chemicals; the impact on service of not cleaning; and the impact on service of over-cleaning (for example online services will need to continue where possible, and any opening of a physical space in addition may reduce the time library staff have to provide this).

The Minnesota Department of Health has produced a useful document - COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance for Schools and Child Care Programs, which includes guidance on key elements to consider in your cleaning regime.

The UK Government has also provided guidance on COVID-19 Disinfection for non-Healthcare settings

Many school libraries provide access to IT, whether that is through shared computers, laptops, tablets or printing facilities. These are usually popular resources which require careful management. Keyboards are particularly hard to clean at all times, and may carry an increased risk as opposed to touch screens.

There is no specific guidance on cleaning IT equipment at this time, and so general procedures for cleaning workspaces should be followed.

The positioning of any equipment will also need to be adjusted to meet social distancing expectations, which with many computer suites may require two computers to be out of use for every one which can be used. Given this and the need to reduce use of the computers that are left (use may have to be restricted to one user per period to reduce cross-contamination - so only one pupil can use the computer for the length of break or lunch, as opposed to many children using the same computer) it is likely that some kind of IT booking process will need to be implemented when schools decide to allow use of these shared facilities.

The lending (even temporarily ie during break) of tablets and laptops will have to be carefully considered because of the chance of multiple pupils handling them; they are easily passed around and there is an increased risk of contamination. This equipment will need to be cleaned, and there must be a safe process of returning it; ideally it should not be returned directly to a member of staff, but placed somewhere for later cleaning.

Guidance on quarantine periods for library materials

Please note guidance from the COVID-19 Guidance Cell of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, as advised to CILIP and DCMS:

  • The risk from books covered in a plastic cover handled by someone who is a possible COVID-19 case is negligible after 72 hours.

  • The risk from books with a cardboard/paper cover is negligible after 24 hours.

We note that each individual library and information service has developed their own policies and protocols for safe book handling, including leaving books in ‘quarantine’ for 72 hours before handling.


Guidance on the infection risk for different materials has been sought from Public Health England (see above), but it is clear there is a risk posed by materials which are moving between households and school. This risk can be minimised by:

  • Implementing a quarantining period for books and resources Creating a quarantine system/workflow to limit contamination risks (so only one person does the returns process, rather than multiple people)

  • Safe storage of materials which still pose a risk, it is likely there wouldn’t be room for this in the library, so other additional areas may need to be provided

  • Supporting low-risk ‘browsing’ - utilising digital library management systems where possible to allow pupils to identify the books they want to try.

  • Providing a box of books for browsing to classrooms

  • Promoting the use of e- and audio books, with support from your local public library service where needed.

  • Extending the returns deadline of books which are currently out to September.

Example survival times of COVID-19 on different materials

Source: WebMD(US), accessed 14.05.2020

Material Examples Avg. survival period
Metal Doorhandles 5 days
Wood Furniture 4 days
Plastics Book coverings 2 to 3 days
Stainless steel Sinks 2 to 3 days
Cardboard Boxes, book covers (not plastic-covered) 24 hours
Copper Coins 4 hours
Paper Documents Survival rates on paper vary considerably. Some strains live for only a few minutes on paper, while others live for up to 5 days

School librarians commonly handle cash for small transactions,such as running a stationery shop. Cash presents a significant transmission risk for COVID-19 - as noted above, some strains of the virus can survive for up to 5 days on some types of paper and up to 3 days on plastics - and as a result it is recommended that you avoid using cash in the library until the pandemic is under control.

Before any services are restarted a COVID-19 Risk Assessment should be completed. This will be a useful exercise to both engage with the risks and plan actions to minimise them. Ideally this will be done by the library staff and SLT together, but where staff are furloughed this may not be possible. Example COVID-19 Risk Assessments will be added in future.

The initial part of the risk assessment will be thinking about how the library will be used. At this stage, don’t try and plan for all year groups and full time use; you will need to do a series of RA’s as schools gradually welcome more students back. Given the current plans of your school, how will that impact your services? If you’re unsure what your school’s plans are, identify your priorities (and refer to the DfE priorities); how can you adjust services to ensure these priorities are met? Part of the risk assessment will be considering what actions can be taken to minimise risks. This may include:

  • Relocation of activities, such as storytelling happening outside

  • Preventing any toys being brought in from home (no teddy bear picnics or dressing up days)

The guidance from the government that class sizes should be of 15 pupils will put significant strain on staffing. It may be that the school needs you to do something different from your usual responsibilities. This should be discussed between you, with openness and understanding. Be honest about your strengths and capabilities.

Any limitations of service should be included in general school communications in order to ensure cohesive messaging and reduce anxiety. Families need clear messaging rather than department specific messages, so ensure there is a plan for how families will be informed about library services.

Due to the nature of the school library - its use by departments, year heads, tutor groups, intervention groups, TAs and volunteers the operating plan for the library will need to be communicated to school staff. They will all be anxious about their own areas of responsibility, so this needs to be clear and concise, and probably shouldn’t be the risk assessment. In the initial period make this operating plan about what you are going to do, and what needs to happen for you to be able to do it.

For example: "The school library will be open to 15 Year 11s at lunchtime to study. These will be bookable slots, so please don’t send students unless they have signed up.”

“I will deliver an information skills class to Year 4, however this will be split over 3 weeks, with one group a week.”

Start slow and low - with not many activities (initially there may not be any) and with fewer pupils. As much as you may want to get ‘back to normal’ this will be a process of many stages.

The measures announced by the Prime Minister in May signal a phased relaxation of the general restrictions on movement and travel. It remains possible that increasing social contact and economic activity triggers a '2nd lockdown' or further period of restrictions, including the re-closure of schools.

Library staff should discuss this possibility with their school leadership and ensure that there is a managed Contingency Plan in place for this eventuality.

For example, in the 'pre-lockdown' period in March, many pupils rushed to take out books from the school library, which will now need to be 'triaged' back into the library and quarantined prior to re-lending. Consider your experience of the implementation of the first 'lockdown' - what did you learn? What would you differently in the event of a 2nd?

This is clearly a stressful time, with heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Take active steps to manage these emotions to enable you to be your best self for the pupils. It is likely to be a difficult time as we transition through this period, with many changes made at short notice, and many difficult decisions having to be taken. It may be that decisions or comments feel more personal at these times; try to manage these and remember that everyone is going through a similar time.

  • Many schools and unions offer services to support staff; make use of these services.

  • Isolation is a real issue for school library staff; networking is important, and the more personal it is, the better. Face to face can work well, as can phone calls; emails may be less reassuring (and more easily misinterpreted).

  • If there’s a group of you do a challenge, quiz or competition - or just meet up for a ‘tea and chat’ session

  • Try and make a list of the positives, of things accomplished rather than focusing on things that haven’t been or can’t be done.

Libraries Connected have produced a valuable listings guide for information and resources on how to take care of your Health and Wellbeing At Home, including support services focused on mental health.

With the impact that this situation has had, and will continue to have, on the economy and on individual schools some school library staff may be concerned about their roles in the long or short term. There are no guarantees, and this situation is likely to have a serious impact on some schools. It can be incredibly hard to be in this position, and when you are passionate about your job and pour time, energy and money into it a decision like this can feel very personal. Try not to take it this way, every school leader will be looking to make decisions which ensure the long term future of that school, and some may have to make very painful decisions.

Some things that might help are:

  • Join a union - they have the legal knowledge and insurance in place to provide the specialist advice these situations require

  • Write a report of the things the library has accomplished this year.

  • Write a list of the things the library will implement when you get back; these should tie into the school priorities


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following materials and resources are provided by 3rd parties and are included here for information and reference

The Working Party has used the Definition of a School Library provided by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA):

“A school library is a school’s physical and digital learning space where reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey and to their personal, social, and cultural growth. This physical and digital place is known by several terms (e.g., school media centre, centre for documentation and information, library resource centre, library learning commons) but ‘school library’ is the term most commonly used and applied to the facility and functions.”

This definition identifies the following features that distinguish a school library, which more than 50 years of international research demonstrates positively impacts student achievement:

  • It has a qualified school librarian with formal education in school librarianship and classroom teaching that enables the professional expertise required for the complex roles of instruction, reading and literacy development, school library management, collaboration with teaching staff, and engagement with the educational community.

  • It provides targeted high-quality diverse collections (print, multimedia, digital) that support the school’s formal and informal curriculum, including individual projects and personal development.

  • It has an explicit policy and plan for ongoing growth and development.

  • * We note that not every school is in a position to retain staff with formal qualifications in school librarianship and teaching. While this is desirable in supporting the full teaching and learning ambitions of the school, we encourage school leadership to ensure that school library staff are supported in their continuing professional development.

    Under this definition, this Guidance emphasises the broad and positive role that a school library plays, not only in enhancing and extending curriculum-based teaching and learning, but in supporting enquiry-based learning, digital and information skills, critical thinking, pastoral care and the whole school culture.

The Department for Education is providing guidance for schools on the process of re-opening or re-commencing teaching and learning. We have provided the following ‘quick-view’ guide to the elements most relevant for school libraries.

The full DfE Guidance is available from their website.

How is this going to work?

Children will need to stay within their new class/group wherever possible and we will ask settings to implement a range of protective measures including increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ (such as parents dropping children off at the start and end of day), and utilising outdoor space.


What about corridors?

While in general groups should be kept apart, brief, transitory, contact such as passing in a corridor is low risk.


What if staff or pupils are vulnerable?

Staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their households. A negative test will enable children to get back to childcare or education, and their parents to get back to work. A positive test will ensure rapid action to protect their classmates and staff in their setting. Those who are clinically vulnerable, or are living with someone who is, should follow our protective measures guidance.


How quickly will this be widened?

Our ambition is to bring all primary year groups back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review. We will only welcome back additional year groups if the most up-to-date assessment of the risk posed by the virus indicates it is appropriate to have larger numbers of children within schools. The safety of children and staff is our utmost priority.


Why these year groups?

The three year groups within mainstream primary have been prioritised because they are key transition years – children in Reception and year 1 are at the very beginning of their school career and are mastering the essential basics, including counting and the fundamentals of reading and writing, and learning to socialise with their peers. We know that attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development (ties in with Hungry Little Minds campaign).


What about older pupils?

From 1 June 2020, we expect that secondary schools and colleges will be able to offer some face to face contact with year 10 and year 12 pupils. This will not be a return to full timetables or pupils back in school or college full time, rather some support to supplement pupils’ remote education. In line with implementing protective measures and reducing contacts, schools and colleges should limit the attendance of the year 10 and 12 cohort in the setting at any one time and to keep students in small groups as set out in our guidance.

Schools and colleges should also ensure that the use of public transport for travel to and from school/college is minimised, especially at peak times.


Does this apply to independent schools as well?

We expect all mainstream schools and colleges, including independent schools, to follow the same approach. We encourage middle schools to do the same and welcome back children in year 6, to ensure national parity for children in this year group.

What if children or staff are shielding; will they be expected in? Children, young people and staff who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions have been advised to shield. We do not expect people in this category to be attending school or college, and they should continue to be supported to learn or work at home as much as possible. Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Few if any children will fall into this category, but parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category. Staff in this category should work from home where possible, and refer to the detail in our protective measures guidance

  • a child/young person or a member of staff who lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, can attend their education or childcare setting

  • if a child/young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, if they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, we do not expect those individuals to attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home

What can I do now?

Every setting should carry out a risk assessment before opening. The assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19), so that sensible measures can be put in place to control those risks for children and staff. All employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety, and they are best placed to understand the risks in individual settings. Therefore work through the hierarchy of measures set out in our guidance:

  • avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
  • frequent hand cleaning and good hygiene practices
  • regular cleaning of settings
  • and minimising contact and mixing

It is still important to reduce contact between children and staff as far as possible, and settings can take steps to achieve that and reduce transmission risk by ensuring children, and staff where possible, mix in a small group and keep that small group away from other people and groups. 


What if my school can’t do this?

Any setting that cannot achieve these small groups at any point should discuss options with their local authority or trust. This might be because there are not enough classrooms / spaces available in the setting or because they do not have enough available teachers / staff to supervise the groups. Solutions might involve children attending a nearby school (on a consistent basis).


More detailed guidance from DfE

Source: Implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.

Hierachy of controls:

In all education, childcare and social care settings, preventing the spread of coronavirus involves dealing with direct transmission (for instance, when in close contact with those sneezing and coughing) and indirect transmission (via touching contaminated surfaces). A range of approaches and actions should be employed to do this. These can be seen as a hierarchy of controls that, when implemented, creates an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. These include:

  • minimising contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend childcare settings, schools or colleges

  • cleaning hands more often than usual - wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly or use alcohol hand rub or sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered

  • ensuring good respiratory hygiene - promote the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach

  • cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach

  • minimising contact and mixing by altering, as much as possible, the environment (such as classroom layout) and timetables (such as staggered break times)

PPE

Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended.

PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases including:

  • children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way

  • if a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn

Vulnerable adults

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are advised not to work outside the home. We are strongly advising people, including education staff, who are clinically extremely vulnerable (those with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus and have been advised by their clinician or through a letter) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. Staff in this position are advised not to attend work. Read COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable for more advice.

Clinically vulnerable individuals who are at higher risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre-existing conditions as set out in the Staying at home and away from others (social distancing) guidance have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Education and childcare settings should endeavour to support this, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home.


Living with shielding people

If a child, young person or a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, they can attend their education or childcare setting.

If a child, young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable guidance, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they are able to understand and follow those instructions.



Class sizes

For primary schools, classes should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group and one teacher (and, if needed, a teaching assistant). If there are any shortages of teachers, then teaching assistants can be allocated to lead a group, working under the direction of a teacher. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers in other year groups should also be split into small groups of no more than 15. Desks should be spaced as far apart as possible.

For secondary schools and colleges, the same principle of halving classes will normally apply. It is also sensible to rearrange classrooms and workshops with sitting positions 2 metres apart. Where very small classes might result from halving, it would be acceptable to have more than half in a class, provided the space has been rearranged. Again, support staff may be drawn on in the event there are teacher shortages, working under the direction of other teachers in the setting.

Consider the following steps:

  • refresh your risk assessment and other health and safety advice for children, young people and staff in light of recent government advice, identifying protective measures (such as the things listed below). Also ensure that all health and safety compliance checks have been undertaken before opening
  • organise small class groups, as described in the ‘class or group sizes’ section above
  • organise classrooms and other learning environments such as workshops and science labs for those groups, maintaining space between seats and desks where possible
  • refresh the timetable:

    • decide which lessons or activities will be delivered

    • consider which lessons or classroom activities could take place outdoors

    • use the timetable and selection of classroom or other learning environment to reduce movement around the school or building

    • stagger assembly groups

    • stagger break times (including lunch), so that all children are not moving around the school at the same time

    • stagger drop-off and collection times

  • for secondary schools and colleges, consider how best to supplement remote education with some face to face support for students

  • plan parents’ drop-off and pick-up protocols that minimise adult to adult contact

In addition, childcare settings or early years groups in school should:

  • consider how to keep small groups of children together throughout the day and to avoid larger groups of children mixing

  • consider how play equipment is used ensuring it is appropriately cleaned between groups of children using it, and that multiple groups do not use it simultaneously

  • remove unnecessary items from classrooms and other learning environments where there is space to store it elsewhere

  • remove soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean (such as those with intricate parts)

  • consider how children and young people arrive at the education or childcare setting, and reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport where possible (guidance will shortly be published on safe travel)

  • institutions offering residential provision will also need to consider the maximum number of children or young people they can safely accommodate in residences

The Health and Safety Executive has set up a comprehensive set of COVID-19 Information Pages which include helpful advice on conducting a COVID-19 Risk Assessment.

Comments...

Lucy Drysdale says...
Posted 15 May 2020
This is a great article and resource for school libraries. Are there plans to do a similar thing for academic libraries?
Sarah J. Pavey says...
Posted 15 May 2020
There is some excellent information and guidance in this document but I feel there is a dichotomy between how the words library and library services have been used. It mentions "re-commencement of library services" but for many schools this has never stopped during the crisis. Especially this has been where librarians involved in teaching and learning through enquiry have been able to provide an outstanding online service and others concerned with raising literacy have used an eBook approach. At the moment companies are offering extraordinary support for online products mostly for free and I think we need to be saying that until safety risks to all are much lower that a no contact online route that has been proven successful is what needs to be endorsed as a preferred choice. Many children around the world who have no choice but to learn virtually and if we think creatively as librarians we can keep safe. Money saved on PPE and cleaning materials alone should support virtual learning

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