As COVID 19 concerns continue, I would like to detail my decisions before and during the library closure.
While it was not an easy decision to close the library, it was an obvious one. What became a more thorny question was whether to proceed with curbside pickups and/or home deliveries. This is an ongoing discussion among NH library directors and also our library staff. I decided early to err on the side of an abundance of caution, and close physical services entirely for the following reasons.
This is what the World Health Organization says about COVID 19 and surfaces:
“It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.”
They lead with that it’s “not certain” how long the virus survives. Second, they say a few hours or up to “several” days. Third, they talk about washing hands to prevent the spread.
The first question this raised was, if washing hands is the most effective way to prevent spread: how do hands come in contact with the virus? Surfaces. How long does the virus last on surfaces? It’s not really known, but it may be days.
Another concern the staff and I have been discussing is the potential of one of us being sick and not knowing it, and then, if Newington starts to have cases of positive tests and some of them are people we know are using the library, having it on our conscience that we might have contributed to the spread. COVID 19 is more contagious than the flu, and the reason seems to be “presymptomatic transmission–when people who have been infected are not yet showing symptoms but in fact could be contagious.”
As a result of these concerns, and after extensive reading which impressed upon me just how much is still unknown about this virus and its risks, I made what I believe was the most responsible decision to not only close the building but also halt loaning of physical materials. The staff and I immediately coordinated to adapt from a “physical service” model to a “virtual and digital” model, and I’m extremely proud of how well we are managing that amid the challenges of doing most of it off-site in an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety.
We profoundly look forward to resuming “business as usual” but will do so only once there’s an abundance of evidence that it is safe for our Newington community. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing our customary level of service, just in an online forum.
Wishing you utmost safety and good health.