Trustee Newsletter May 2020

A Note from Ron

Reopening libraries has been the dominating subject line in my inbox since the Governor's talk last Sunday. There has been a fair number of draft plans, invites for regional conversations, warnings, concerns, and even a couple of people with palpable excitement. The library community seems to be in a jumble of emotions right now, but the leading feeling is a general sense of confusion as to what to do next. It's difficult to determine the next steps when so much is unknown. We've been sitting in this idle waiting period for so long that trepidation has set in, which makes it hard to move. I understand the feeling, but even with all that, now is the best time to start reimaging what your library will look like in the coming months. Luckily for me, your library directors have been talking about reopening concerns for a while now on our weekly check-in calls. Their comments, questions, and suggestions are shaping a System-wide approach to reopening.

While our plan is in the development phase (more on that below), I would like to schedule a meeting with Library Directors and Board Presidents (or a board representative) to discuss our plan of action and answer any questions your board may have. I've scheduled the meeting for next Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 6:00 pm; I will be sending an invite out soon. The reason for the attendance limitation is because of our capacity at the system to field the questions and comments that may come in about reopening. I would ask that if there are questions, please send them to your director or Board President prior to the meeting, and we'll do our best to answer everything that comes up. Once we have a formalized plan, it will certainly be shared out broadly to this list.

System-Wide Plans for Reopening Libraries

During a recent press conference by the Governor's, he gave a broad outline for a phased reopening of New York. Phase One begins after NY PAUSE expires on May 15 and allows low-risk construction and manufacturing businesses to return to work in regions that have experienced a 14-day decline in hospitalization rates. Two weeks after the implementation of Phase One, the Governor's next step is to open businesses with a more significant economic impact and inherent low risks of infection. The idea would then be extended plans to other industries in two-week increments providing infection rates stay under control. The opening of libraries in this phased approach is unclear; however, we are working on our own system-wide plan that can be implemented in-step with the Governor's phased reopening of our region.

It is important to keep things in perspective during this time and understand that the term "reopening" does not accurately describe what we will be happening. Organizations across the nation will be operating at a fraction of their normal capacity, and libraries should expect to be doing the same. A reasonable expectation is that we will start slow and gradually work towards acclimating to these new operating conditions. I understand this will be difficult and will most likely involve a fair number of missteps and patchwork solutions as we progress. Moving slowly and patiently will be crucial, and our number one priority should be the health and safety of the people returning to work.

As mentioned above, the Pioneer Library System team will be developing a reopening plan over the next couple of weeks. Even with these steps in place, keep in mind that with the Governor's timeline, libraries will most likely not be able to conduct any businesses until at least mid-June or later.

I am hoping libraries are comfortable with the system taking the lead on this. Directors and boards can (and should) plan local strategies for reopening, with the understanding that system-wide services will be implemented holistically rather than on a case-by-case basis. Our plans will not push anyone to open sooner than they are ready, nor will they accommodate libraries who plan to open earlier than others in the system. I feel strongly that a collaborative approach will be best for all libraries across the system.

Considerations for Local Reopening Plans

Now is the time to start thinking about how to open your library safely and what modified services you will be able to implement. While we will take care of the broad scope of reopening, libraries will need their own local plans for how they will serve their communities. A few items to consider will be what modified services look like at your library, how it will impact your budget, what policies will need to be in place, and your capacity to implement with current staffing levels. Planning now will help prepare for an opportunity to implement in the coming months.

Libraries will also need to plan on purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for staff. We are looking into bulk purchasing PPE; however, there is no guarantee that we will be able to secure what we need for every library. PPE is one of the guaranteed budget modifications that you will need to be thinking about as libraries begin to reopen.

For advice on reopening plans, I will echo the Governor and say that you should be smart, don't let plans get political, and focus on realistic plans that are not developed out of emotion or the desire to return to work early. Safety is our number one concern.

Minimum Standards Workshop Rerun

If you missed it the first time, Suzanne and I are talking Minimum Standards again on Thursday, May 7, 2020, at 6:00 pm via GoToMeeting.

Discussion points:
  • Updates to Public Library Minimum Standards
  • Requirements for Library Websites
  • Template Suggestions for Long-Range Plans
  • Committee Recommendations for Policies
Presenters: Ron Kirsop, Executive Director and Suzanne Macaulay, Assistant Director of Pioneer Library System

Click here to register.

Check out our Trustee Page for more upcoming workshops.

Construction Grant Updates

FY 2020 Grant Cycle: The applications that were submitted last year (October 2019) have been sent from the Division of Library Development to DASNY for final approval. Last year DASNY approved grants by August, so I'm hoping for a similar timeline this year.

FY 2021 Grant Cycle: The Intent to Apply deadline for this year's grant cycle has been extended to June 30, 2020. Visit https://docs.owwl.org/Community/ConstructionGrants for more details. We have also received information that our system will receive $377,000 this year for construction. While this is a third of what was allocated to us last year, I am hopeful that this will be able to provide some funding to a handful of projects.

Last Month's Issue

Trustee Newsletter April 2020
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