The Trustee Corner is a monthly series featuring information of interest to public library boards. Topics include training opportunities, legal issues, helpful information, and relevant news impacting public library governance. The information included in this newsletter is for informational purposes, and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Please consult your library’s attorney with any questions about your specific situation.
It’s National Library Week (April 19-25), a time to celebrate and recognize the all that libraries provide to their communities. Thank you to all the public library trustees who volunteer to serve in critical roles on advisory and governing boards across the state of Colorado. These roles are even more critical as our state and nation face a global pandemic that has drastically shifted the role and capacity of public libraries, and many other organizations and businesses.
This issue of the Trustee Corner is devoted to resources and information for library boards related to the COVID-19 Pandemic and how it is having an impact on public libraries. If your library board is in need of support during this time, please email the State Library.
In this issue:
- Being a Library Champion During Times of Crisis
- Good Governance During a Pandemic
- Census 2020 Update
- United for Libraries Discussion Forums for Trustees
- Share Your Library’s Story
Being a Library Champion During a Time of Crisis
During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are facing challenges when it comes to funding, staffing, and shifting services to meet community need from a distance. Library trustees and other library supporters may be called on during this time to be a champion for the public library, and to advocate for the library in the community and with stakeholders.
With a statewide stay at home order in Colorado, most libraries have closed their doors to the public and many have staff working from home. The American Library Association (ALA) released a statement in support of closing library buildings to the public in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, while maintaining paid leave and benefits for all library staff. At the same time, public libraries have opened windows to their virtual services, and have found creative and innovative ways to take in-person services online. The Public Library Association conducted a survey of the initial response of public libraries, and has released data showing that 61% of public libraries who responded have begun to offer some virtual programming.
Public libraries have also been partners in their communities as sites for emergency food distribution, support for the homeless, and parking lot wifi access. The Pikes Peak Library District is one of many libraries in Colorado that is using their makerspace equipment to manufacture face shields and masks for first responders. The Denver Public Library launched access to the Udemy online learning platform for all cardholders, to support online learning. Libraries have been lending mobile hotspots and laptops to help lessen the digital divide. In addition to virtual storytimes and phone-a-story services, libraries are offering online programs on genealogy, local history, and crafts (including this series from the Pueblo City-County Library District on how to make your own tye-died face mask).
With all that public libraries are doing for their communities, there are still challenges when it comes to funding and support for libraries. Local governments are already projecting budget shortfalls, and are working to make adjustments. Library budgets may be in jeopardy, and library boards may be critical voices in the conversation about funding.
United for Libraries offered two free webinars on how library supporters can be champions for the library. Both were recorded and archived, and free to view: Advocacy for Your Library During a Crisis and Engaging Library Supporters During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The ALA released state and local resources for advocacy, including a one-page overview on How Community Leaders Can Partner with Libraries During the Response and Recovery. The EveryLibrary organization has made the case that the purchasing power of libraries will be an essential part of economic recovery, especially if libraries shift their purchasing policy to prefer vendors from the local economy.
The theme for this year’s National Library Week is Find the Library at Your Place. This is a savvy last minute adaptation of the previously planned theme, Find Your Place at the Library, bringing an emphasis on staying home and accessing the library remotely. The ALA has put together a list of 20 easy ways to participate in National Library Week, all of which can be done from home.
Being a library champion is a year round effort, but it is even more critical during these times of crisis. As a library trustee, think about how you (and your fellow board members) can let the community know the value of the library, even when we’re all doing our part to stay at home.
Good Governance During a Pandemic
As your library’s board adjusts to stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, you may be finding it challenging to continue with “board business as usual.” Some library boards have opted to postpone regular meetings, while others have adopted virtual or phone meetings to carry on with business. There are many questions that arise about both the legal and logistical challenges of holding public meetings using virtual platforms, particularly with regard to Colorado’s Open Meeting (Sunshine) Law. Questions may also arise that relate to library policy. Be sure to check with your library’s legal counsel before making changes to your meeting location, public meeting notice protocol, or any policy changes.
Several organizations in Colorado have published general information about holding meetings online. The Special District Association (SDA) posted an article on Attending Meetings Electronically, Posting Meeting Notices Online, and Other Helpful Info, which may be helpful for library districts. They also promoted a webinar covering remote meeting options and considerations. The Colorado Municipal League (CML) Coronoavirus information page shares guidance on open meetings, as does the Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) County Practices & Resources page. If your library is part of a city, county, school district, or some joint agreement between local governments, you should also check in to see if there are specific requirements or recommendations from your governing authority.
It’s important for library boards to stay up to date on the latest rules and regulations that might have an impact on library governance and operations. For the latest information on Colorado’s response, visit the Colorado COVID-19 Updates website, which includes a page detailing the stay-at-home order for residents and businesses, as well as guidance for schools, workplaces, and communities. The Governor’s website includes a full listing of all executive orders. The Colorado Department of Education website has a page detailing COVID-19 Resources for Schools. Colorado’s Legislature has also created a web page devoted to Legislative Staff Research and Resources on Responses to COVID-19, including links to information about federal legislation related to the pandemic. Another reliable resource for guidance on legal and human resources questions is the Employers Council Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page. Libraries should also be following guidance from local public health agencies and emergency response teams.
Census 2020 Update
The 2020 Census is underway and households across America are responding every day. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak the US Census Bureau has adjusted several 2020 Census deadlines. The most recent delay was announced on April 13, when the Census Bureau delayed all field operations until June 1, 2020. Stay up to date on the latest news by viewing the Census 2020 Tools for Communities Page, created by Colorado’s State Demography Office. View the response rate for your county, city, or census tract using this interactive map from the US Census Bureau.
United for Libraries Discussion Forums for Trustees
COVID-19 is impacting libraries nationwide. In this time of uncertainty, United for Libraries has opened their online discussion forums to provide Boards of Trustees, Friends Groups, and Library Foundations across the country a place to share best practices, ask questions, seek feedback, and more. From March 19, 2020, to June 30, 2020, the United for Libraries membership requirement to participate in online discussion forums will be waived.
Fill out this form on the United for Libraries website to sign up for one or more United for Libraries discussion forums.
Share Your Library’s Story
How is your library’s board responding to COVID-19? What are your trustees doing to advocate for the library during these difficult times? Email Crystal Schimpf to share your story.