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CILIP Coronavirus Information Service

13 March 2020   (4 Comments)
Posted by: Nick Poole
CILIP Coronavirus Information Service


This page last updated: Thursday 26th March 2020

CILIP is committed to supporting our members in all aspects of their work, including understanding and managing the emerging impact of COVID-19 and coronavirus on library, information and knowledge services.

On Monday 23rd March (20.30) the Prime Minister announced generalised restrictions on non-essential movement for the whole population. This announcement included confirmation of the closure of libraries with immediate effect. CILIP will continue to provide information and support for our members and the wider library and information profession through this Information Service throughout the period of lockdown.

On Monday 16th March 2020, both the UK Government and the NHS (retrieved retrieved 15:05, 17/03/20) advised that ‘everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading’[1], which includes a number of initiatives including increased hand-washing and practising good respiratory hygiene. The advice and evidence also strongly calls for “social distancing”, and the Government have offered specific ‘advice to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)’(retrieved 15:05, 17/03/20).

A wide range of leisure and cultural attractions are already closing to the public and moving to remote working wherever possible, in line with this latest advice. CILIP recognises that the Information Profession covers an extremely broad range of organisations and that library and knowledge workers may face extremely different situations, requirements and concerns depending on the nature of their organisations.

Because of this, it is not possible for CILIP to offer a “blanket statement” that will fit every organisation – advice which is suitable for public libraries may not always map to academic libraries, and advice suitable for an information service within a private firm may not apply to information services working within the public sector.

Many library and information services provide support either to those in particularly vulnerable demographics or to those who are in regular contact with people who have been identified as being at particularly increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).

As a result of this, increasing numbers of library and knowledge services are already adapting their working practices to enable them to maintain their service while following the expert advice being offered to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) among their users and staff. CILIP fully supports these institutions in the responsible steps being taken to balance their individual organisational situation with the welfare and needs of their staff, users, and the public at large.

CILIP notes with concern that in some host institutions, a “business as usual” model is being maintained. We urge all institutions to reflect on any actions being taken at this time in order to ensure that they comply with the expert advice being provided to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Many library and information workers themselves are also either at increased risk or are necessarily in close contact with those who are at increased risk, and we recognise that many of our members working at such institutions are being torn between their need to follow the evidence and advice on social distancing and their professional drive to fulfil their duties on behalf of their organisation.

On behalf of these members, CILIP calls on all host institutions to follow NHS and government guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and to transparently engage with their staff to inform and discuss with them the best response to ensure the welfare of their staff and service users.

This includes supporting staff to work remotely and enabling social distancing, as well as supporting the development of more services which their library and knowledge services can develop and deliver remotely in support of their users over the coming months.

Although the library and information sector is broad, we believe that there are already opportunities for most library and information workers to continue to provide many of their essential services, and provide their specialised skillset via online and remote access. Making best use of these opportunities should both minimise any disruption to services and still enable host institutions to follow the latest evidence and guidelines provided by the Government, NHS, and Public Health authorities.

CILIP appreciates the many ways in which members are applying their expertise, creativity and commitment to serve their communities at this extraordinary time. Over the coming days, CILIP will liaise with its Special Interest Groups to identify and share initiatives and best practice applicable to the needs of specific sectors of the library and information community. Through this we hope to leverage expertise and sector-specific skills to best support our members in using their professional skills in supporting their organisations to follow the expert advice on responding to coronavirus (COVID-19), and ensure the best possible continuity of service to their users and communities through this challenging period.

We are advised that the current risk level from COVID-19 in the UK is ‘High’

The Government has issued revised advice intended to minimise the risk of infection and break ‘infection chains’, based on three elements:

We recommend following the following information sources for regularly-updated and authoritative information on the development and spread of the virus:

NHS Coronavirus Hub –

Government advice hub, including advice for the public, employers and businesses -

The Public Health England Knowledge and Library Services Team have developed a comprehensive set of information resources about the virus, its symptoms and how to promote public health -

Public Health England are also regularly maintaining and updating a collection of advisory materials for the public:

If you are concerned about any misinformation that may be in circulation concerning COVID-19, refer to the Coronavirus Misinformation Tracker provided by Newsguard.

You can also download and display some helpful posters on hand hygiene and other preventive measures at

How to Handwash

Due to the highly localised and specific nature of the virus response, CILIP cannot provide advice to cover every type of library, information and knowledge service. You should in all cases follow the policy and guidance of your institution alongside that of the NHS and Public Health England.

The advice issued by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday 16th March constituted a series of advisory measures, rather than an outright ban on people congregating in public spaces. However, we are aware that an increasing number of libraries and information services have implemented interim closures. We encourage all heads of service to ensure that their institution acts in a way that promotes the health and wellbeing of library and information staff as well as that of service users.

We appreciate that many information professionals work in frontline/public-facing roles which will bring them into daily contact with users who might themselves have been exposed to coronavirus.

Until specific additional guidance is provided, we encourage everyone in this position to maintain social distancing, follow guidance for good hygiene and be vigilant for the symptoms of the virus.

We strongly advise all library, information and knowledge services to prepare an Action Plan to minimise disruption in the increasingly likely event of full or partial closure to users.

We advise all library, information and knowledge services to prepare an Action Plan to minimise disruption in the event of full or partial closure to users.

The following advice has been shared with us to help you consider how best to respond:

If your library, information or knowledge service is remaining open

  • Consider providing posters sharing current NHS advice on hand hygiene and handwashing
  • Provide hand gel or signpost handwashing points for all users and staff
  • Provide wipes for keyboards and other shared equipment
  • Ensure that offices and public spaces are cleaned regularly and thoroughly

If your library, information or knowledge service is to be fully-closed

  • Extend all book loans
  • Cancel all events and activities (and notify attendees)
  • Notify users that the service has been forced to close on an interim basis
  • Encourage users to contact the library via email/online
  • Consider whether remote access to services can be provided to minimise disruption
  • Keep users and staff regularly updated as the situation develops

If your library, information or knowledge service is closed to users

  • Devise a task list for work that staff can complete while the service is closed to the public/users

Support for freelancers and consultants during coronavirus

Coronavirus and COVID-19 are having a very significant effect on freelancers and consultants who support the library and information sector.

To help address this, a coalition of freelancers and librarians have launched an online support service which allows freelancers to list their services and availability and library and information services to find people.

Visit the ‘Librarians Support Freelancers’ service now and register your services if you are available for work.

The Arts Council England (ACE) have published a new web page featuring the latest advice from Government for libraries, museums and arts organisations affected by COVID-19 and coronavirus.

The page includes details of specific support to organisations within the ACE remit, including libraries.

More information is available from

We are monitoring developments with libraries and information services on a sector-by-sector basis and liaising with sector representative organisations and employer groups to encourage them to act in the interests of the wellbeing of their staff and the public as well as in accordance with official guidance.

We acknowledge that closing libraries for public access does not mean shutting down services and are working with sector organisations to promote the transition to the provision of online services.

Further sector-by-sector updates will be added to this resource in due course so please do refer back regularly.

School and College Libraries

We are aware that the rapid development of COVID-19 is having a significant impact on library workers in schools and colleges. Currently, our advice is to follow the policy of your school or college in terms of keeping yourself and your students safe.

We The following is adapted from an update from the Chair of the CILIP School Libraries Group:

“School libraries have suddenly become really important as books have been flying off the shelves, literally in their hundreds, into the hands of students. School librarians, of course, risk not getting all of them back, but that was a price we all were prepared to pay.

Now schools are closed, school librarians face the part-opening for necessary workers. The Government have not clarified whether support staff - including librarians - are classified as essential workers alongside teachers or not. Some librarians have been told to come in (if not self isolating) but with no indication of whether they can therefore put their children into schools. A clarification is needed. If it only covers teachers, then support staff with children should not be required to be in schools. CILIP has been asked to lobby for clarification on this.

Those of us in schools are not expecting to be back before September. We are expecting to not only have to deal with several months worth of post and emails, and rooms which badly need tidying but which we have not been allowed to enter, but also the mental health of our students will be fragile. The library as a refuge will be needed more than ever, and this crucial role needs flagging up.”

The School Libraries Group have been quick to mobilise a range of support resources including:

Public Libraries

As at 20.30 on Monday, 23rd March, the Government announced a generalised closure of a number of public venues including libraries. In a parallel announcement the Welsh Government has also confirmed the closure of all public libraries in Wales.

CILIP CEO Nick Poole met virtually with the Libraries Minister Caroline Dinenage MP and the DCMS Libraries Team on Monday to discuss the situation and explore how libraries can continue to support their communities during the period of lockdown.

CILIP welcomes the news that registrations with public libraries have increased significantly over the past two weeks and supports the Libraries Connected call for additional investment in public libraries to enable them to purchase more e-books to meet increased demand.

CILIP will continue to provide online support for members and the wider sector with their CPD during the period of lockdown, including through webinars, Vimeo and digital content.

The majority of public library services in England are now closed, according to the online tracker being maintained by Public Libraries News.

CILIP is aware that alternate arrangements are being put in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and members in those jurisdictions should refer first to the guidance of the relevant sector bodies there.

Academic Libraries

We are in contact with Directors of Library and Information Services in HE institutions across the UK and are actively monitoring the decisions they are making. At the moment, following careful consideration, a significant number are remaining open in some form, albeit with limited face-to-face services.

CILIP will be liaising with SCONUL and others to ensure that we are up-to-date on the situation in academic libraries and able to support our members in the sector.

Health Libraries and Knowledge Services

CILIP is in regular contact with senior leaders at Health Education England and Public Health England to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and the wider public health crisis on librarians and knowledge specialists in health.

Through their regional networks HEE library and knowledge service development leads are actively supporting NHS library and knowledge services staff to follow Government advice, and that of their employer, and focus on the best ways that our professional skills can be brought to bear to deliver evidence and support the organisations and the communities we serve at this critical time.

For librarians and information professionals working in health, it is useful to refer to Current Awareness Bulletins, such as this from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, which collate the latest updates on sources of clinical advice and data on coronavirus and COVID-19:

All other services

These updates reflect the sectors with which we have had specific communications. Over the next few days, we will be reaching out to our Special Interest Groups to ensure that all sectors are represented.

In the meantime, please email any sector-specific updates to

The Government has announced a wide-ranging package of financial and other support measures for businesses and employees affected by coronavirus.

Information on available support and how to access it is published at

We have received information from a number of Unions concerned their support and advisory services in response to COVID-19, please see the links below.

Access to premises in London and Glasgow

Our first priority is for the health and well-being of our staff, members and tenants and visitors to our premises either in London or Glasgow. For the time being, our London office remain open for business but the Glasgow office is closed and staff will work from home for the foreseeable future.

We are actively monitoring the developing situation and guidance from Public Health England and will update this position as soon as this guidance changes.


Due to the increased risk and the updated guidance provided by the Prime Minister and the NHS, CILIP has implemented home working for all staff able to do so. We will liaise with contacts and stakeholders to minimise disruption. For the time being, we will aim to convert meetings into Zoom meetings wherever possible.

Events, conferences and training

Events, conferences and training are a major part of our work in support of the library, information and knowledge management profession, and so we have taken additional advice relating to these activities.

CILIP and our Member Networks are reviewing every event on a case-by-case basis and may need to cancel, reschedule or make alternate arrangements under specific circumstances. We may also investigate converting face-to face events into e-events where appropriate.

We are developing contingency plans in the event that this guidance should change over the coming months and we will ensure that any changes are communicated in full to event participants.

We have asked members to share with us link to and details of any guidance materials or sector-specific resources that have assisted them in dealing with the impact of coronavirus on their work. Please be aware that while we have exercised judgement in the selection of these resources, we cannot guarantee their quality. Please always refer to the additional sources listed above in the first instance.

Colleagues working in GLL Libraries have kindly shared the following information about housekeeping and other procedures in place in their libraries:

Measures currently being taken in GLL Libraries:

Clean libraries: we are ensuring that all libraries are as clean as possible. In Bromley, the Council is deep cleaning all offices and other spaces which it controls and we are mirroring this in our libraries with steam cleaning throughout. In order to do this effectively, we have asked staff to operate a clear desk policy.

Keyboards and screens. We have arranged for regular antibacterial cleaning of all screens and keyboards: staff are also being issued with antibacterial wipes and given instruction by the professional cleaners on how to do this when swapping keyboards back of house

Children’s toys. Many of our children’s activities involve the use of toys. We have been advised by our cleaning company that they cannot guarantee effective cleaning of toys and so we are withdrawing toys for some activities or at the least, using them sparingly. We are not sure how long infectious substances remain surfaces, and so we encourage children to wash their hands before and after using toys in libraries, in any case.

Handwashing. In order to encourage staff to wash their hands thoroughly, we are ensuring that each bathroom has hot water, washing mousse or soap, and either an efficient hand drier or an older hand drier plus (recycled) paper towels. Torque rolls have also been provided for clearing up in libraries. We are encouraging staff to wash hands:

  • before leaving home
  • on arrival at work
  • after using the toilet
  • after breaks and sporting activities
  • before food preparation
  • before eating any food, including snacks
  • before leaving work
  • on arrival at home
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Contact with the public. Antibacterial sensitizer is located at every contact point.

Information for the public. Notices providing government guidance on the COVID-19 outbreak are displayed in all libraries.

Home Delivery Services. Home delivery services take library services to the homes of people who cannot visit the library: many of these customers are inevitably older and vulnerable people, and so we do not want to expose them to the risk of infection. We have introduced a protocol of contacting the customer 5 minutes before the visit to ensure that we know whether books are to be left on the doorstep or delivered directly to the customer. Because we are dealing within a vulnerable group of customers, particular care will be taken: if possible, book covers will be treated with antibacterial wipes and staff may wear latex gloves during the visit.

Header image: Scientific Animations under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.


Tom Yeomans says...
Posted 25 March 2020
My quick look at any inanimate surfaces is up to 9 days
Nick Poole says...
Posted 24 March 2020
Hi Peter, Lesley, just to confirm that we have been in touch with Public Health England and other colleagues in libraries on this. There is no clear line on how long coronavirus remains a risk on different materials, so PHE have advised to follow basic hand hygiene procedures and use gloves when handling materials. We know a number of libraries are 'quarantining' books in their book drop for up to 72 hours before handling. Nick P
Lesley G. Martin says...
Posted 23 March 2020
This article from BBC Future suggests the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic, according to an NIH study
Peter Condon says...
Posted 20 March 2020
Is there any information on how long the virus remains active on covered / uncovered books? many thanks for any corroborated comments.

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