Library Service During a Crisis

The State of the Crisis

On 31 March 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas (  These orders specifically call on the Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, a memorandum from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a part of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (  All of the following advice should be taken in the context of section Considerations For Government And Business with particular attention to items

3. Workers should be encouraged to work remotely when possible and focus on core business activities. In-person, non-mandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations.

4. When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days and/or social distancing. These steps can preserve the workforce and allow operations to continue.

6. Reliance on technology and just-in-time supply chains means that certain workers must be able to access certain sites, facilities, and assets to ensure continuity of functions.


7. Government employees, such as emergency managers, and the business community need to establish and maintain lines of communication.

In addition, all libraries should have an emergency operation plan.  If not, now is a good time to create one. Either way, any specific rules related to pandemics should be reviewed or added now per item

5. All organizations should implement their business continuity and pandemic plans or put plans in place if they do not exist. Delaying implementation is not advised and puts at risk the viability of the business and the  health and safety of the employees.

Reference Service

Copperas Cove Public Library and New Braunfels Public Library are helping staff their local COVID-19 response hotlines.  This is a natural fit for any public library. Ready reference, essentially an information hotline but for any question, is a standard service of all libraries.  Since library staff are already trained to help people clarify their concerns and then provide authoritative information that can be put to use, public libraries are a natural place to turn when staffing a crisis response hotline.

This activity fits within the DHS Guidelines under Law Enforcement, Public Safety, And Other First Responders, 911 call center employees and Public Safety Answering Points who can’t perform their duties remotely.

Internet Access

Pottsboro Library has a computer set up for telehealth / telemedicine use.  Similarly, Wichita Falls Public Library has a computer set up for census use.  Use is by appointment only, and the equipment is sanitized between uses.

This activity fits within the DHS Guidelines under Other Community- Or Government-based Operations And Essential Functions, Federal, State, and Local, Tribal, and Territorial employees who support Mission Essential Functions and communications networks.  Item 4 of Considerations For Government And Business is particularly relevant here.

Maker Space Use

McAllen Public Library, Pottsboro Library, Bonham Public Library, Nueces County Public Libraries, and Wilson County Libraries are using their 3D printers to manufacture products needed by their local healthcare workers.  NIH (National Institutes of Health) is maintaining a collection of models for 3D printing at  NIH is testing the models to make sure they work properly and have divided the collection into “Reviewed for Clinical Use” (meaning approved), “Optimized for Personal Use” (meaning approved), “Under Review,” and the critically important “WARNING: Safety Implications” (meaning rejected) sections.  Libraries wanting to produce filter masks will find an approved design in the Reviewed for Clinical Use section.

Additionally, Pottsboro Library and Bonham Public Library are aiding the production of cloth face masks. Pottsboro is loaning sewing machines from their maker space while Bonham is 3D printing bias tape makers.

As always, libraries should contact their local healthcare institutions to find out what is needed and whether they can accept supplies produced by the library.  This activity fits within the DHS Guidelines under Hygiene Products And Services, Workers who produce hygiene products.  Items 6 and 7 of Considerations For Government And Business are particularly relevant here.