Georgia Library Association Calls on the Georgia Department of Health to Prioritize Librarians and Library Workers in Vaccination Plans
GLA urges the Department of Health to recognize that public and academic libraries perform regular and necessary “frontline services” every day. All library workers, staff, and librarians are therefore in a high-risk group. Including librarians and library workers in the Phase 1b distribution plan will allow us to fully reopen public libraries to public service and campus libraries to all students while protecting staff and vulnerable populations.
Librarians and library workers in public libraries and academic libraries are essential and should be included in state and local Phase 1b vaccine distribution plans to protect staff and minimize risk to patrons and community users. School librarians are included in plans for the education community and should continue to be prioritized.
In Georgia, 40.8% of the population have a public library card and will benefit from fully restored library services. During FY19, our libraries had over 26 million in-person visits and over 41 million website visits. Our 9,547 public computers provide high speed access to the Internet, which allow residents to find employment and stay connected with their communities.
In November 2020, the AJC reported that “enrollment in the public system’s 26 colleges and universities increased by 2.4% to a record-high 341,485 students, according to a staff report Wednesday to the state’s Board of Regents..” This increase occurred despite the pandemic. Students need access to library services for a successful academic career.
Consider the following:
- “Librarians” were included among the Essential Workers who should be prioritized for vaccination in the July 2020 CDC AIPC Work Group report “COVID-19 vaccine prioritization Work Group considerations”
- In its current “Occupational Outlook Handbook”, the US Department of Labor clearly identifies that librarians and library workers regularly do job roles that require close contact with the general public and patrons. The most recent survey on the use of public libraries from the PEW Charitable Trusts shows that over 40% of people who visit a library have a close interaction with a librarian or other staff member. This holds true for academic libraries and school libraries along with public libraries. However, as noted above, teachers and faculty are already clearly included in the CDC Phase 2 guidance for vaccination.
- The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services has funded and supported an important research partnership with OCLC and Battelle on “REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums” (REALM) to help sector leaders understand and mitigate risk to staff and patrons from potential exposure to the coronavirus on materials they circulate and surfaces in their facilities. The REALM project has found that for books and paper, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can exist for as little as one day on a hardback book and is detectable for as long as 8 days for archival leather and synthetic materials.
- Libraries are a trusted anchor in the community and could possibly serve as Vaccination and Testing sites.
- Providing Phase 1b vaccinations to all library workers, staff, and librarians not only protects individuals and mitigates our collective risk, but it also helps to legitimize the perception of vaccines as a core component of public health services.
Libraries and the library staff that provide essential services want to serve the community. Recognizing the people who work in libraries as essential workers will allow libraries to fully reopen public libraries to public service and campus libraries to all students while protecting staff and vulnerable populations.
(posted by Tim Wojcik)