NYLA Updates on COVID-19 Pandemic
Update June 1
The Empire State Development Corporation has updated the Business Exchange tool for libraries. See the below:
Update May 29
Last night, the Governor released Executive Order 202.34, which authorizes businesses and their operators to deny entry to individuals who are not wearing a mask or face covering.
In addition, Phase Two guidance has been expanded under NY Forward. However, at this time, no region has been authorized to expand their regions operations under P2. We are awaiting further gudiance for libraries as well as general P2 information from authorities.
Update May 28
On March 14, 2020 NYLA issued a statement calling on libraries to suspend public operations in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown period has proven longer and more challenging than anyone could have anticipated.
And now we are moving into the process of reopening libraries under a new operating paradigm. The guidelines provided by New York State, as they apply to libraries, have been inconsistent, and unclear, – even within a given Region.
Throughout the crisis, NYLA’s position has remained that decisions about the operation of any library are best made on the local level. Initially we had hoped that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), (the entity responsible for developing and distributing finer point guidelines for operations under the rules set forward by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders,) would adopt a stepped reopening plan for libraries. As the Phase 1 guidelines were released it became apparent that ESDC was providing as much autonomy to the ten Regional ‘Control Rooms’ as possible in interpreting and enforcing reopening procedures. This left us with having to choose a single Phase in which to insert libraries (leaving their step-by-step reopening plans to be determined locally). At that time Phase 1 was still restricted to construction and manufacturing (in which libraries clearly didn’t fit). Operating under the core value of library autonomy, we requested that libraries be included in Phase 2. This would allow those libraries that elected to move ahead with reopening the authority to do so, while allowing those libraries that were not prepared to reopen safely the ability to choose to maintain all virtual operations.
The ESDC guidance website was abruptly updated with guidance that stipulated that all public non-association libraries could begin curbside services during Phase 1 within their region. NYLA continues to advocate for clarification and uniformed rules for all libraries.
Above all else, NYLA believes that no library should reopen until they have the policies, procedures, supplies, equipment, and training available to minimize the risk to the fullest extent possible to their staff, patrons, and communities.
Update May 26
Today, the Legislature is BACK IN SESSION! The Libraries and Education Technology Committee, as well as the Senate Finance & Rules Committee, will be voting on A10465/S8410 which will provide active construction projects under DLD an additional twelve months to complete their plans.
In addition, today the Mid-Hudson Regions is allowed to enter Phase One under NY Forward. Tomorrow, Long Island will be eligible to open industries listed in Phase One.
Update May 22
Today, Andrew Cuomo released Executive Order 202.33. The order allows for non-essential gatherings of 10 or less people, moving forward.
Update May 21
The Governor released Executive Order 202.32 today which focused on medical procedures, taxes and re-opening. Important for many - gatherings of 10 or less are now permitted for religious purposes and Memorial Day.
Update May 20
It has come to our attention that as of earlier today, Empire State Development has altered the operating status of libraries & archives. You may view the information here. Simply enter your county, click “next” and then type in either “Libraries” or the NAICS code: 519120.
For those eligible, you are “permitted to operate with restrictions statewide”.
- Government facilities only; operations as determined by the local government if such government operates the library, or the library district itself as a political subdivision.
- Local governments are subject to 50% workforce reductions pursuant to EO 202.4.
Operations may include:
- Curbside and in-house pickup
- Per the ESD: Facilities are encouraged, but not required, to reference and employ the State's retail guidance to the extent that it applies to their operations.
- If an eligible library would like to operate curbside pickup, they must comply with safety guidelines as well as additional procedures issued by the State.
- All facilities wishing to operate per the above must affirm that you have read and understand your obligation to operate in accordance with the guidance at the bottom of the document.
- We are covered under #4 (last bullet).
For the most up-to-date information, visit the following websites:
Update May 19
Per the Governor, as of tomorow, May 20, the Western New York Region will be eligible to re-open under Phase 1.
Update May 18
Per Governor Andrew Cuomo, Western New York will be eligible to open under Phase One criteria as listed on the NY Forward site tomorrow, May 19.
In addition, the Empire State Development in partnership with the Governor's office have released a new database that allows counties and businesses to search their eligibility status. The database can be found here. Our (library) code is 519120.
Update May 15
Late last night, the Governor released Executive Order 202.31. The order extends the state disaster declaration until June 13 and extends NY PAUSE until 5/28. The latter of which remains in effect for regions until they meet the benchmarks needed for Phase One.
Update May 14
Beginning tomorrow, May 15 at 12:01 a.m., five regions will be eligible to re-open under Phase One. They are as follows: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country and the Southern Tier.
Update May 12
With input from our partners from the Public Library System Directors Organization (PULISDO), NYLA has been advocating for libraries to be permissively included in Phase Two. This would allow libraries to begin a phased re-opening process, to be determined at the local level, as early as when their region enters Phase Two. The decision on when, as well as the steps and procedures for re-opening are best determined locally, and in conjunction with the local library system and county Department of Health.
Update May 11
Today, the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, and Southern Tier regions have met the required metrics and may start Phase 1 reopening as soon as their plans are approved. In addition, a new website is available for the public to view their region’s progress as well as guidance for each phase. The page offers a plethora of information and serves as a great resource (alongside NYLA’s COVID-19 page).
With input from our partners from the Public Library System Directors Organization (PULISDO), NYLA has been advocating for libraries to be permissively included in phase two. This would allow libraries to be a phased re-opening processed, to be determined at the local level, as early as when their region enters Phase Two. The decision on when, as well as the steps and procedures for re-opening, are best determined locally, and in conjunction with the local library system and county Department of Health.
We anticipate detailed guidance on the entities covered by Phase Two to be released by the Governor’s office, and the NY Forward website, in the coming days.
Update May 10
The Governor's latest order requires nursing homes and adult care facilities to test their personnel for COVID 19 twice a week. In addition, any personnel refusing a test will be considered to have outdated health records and will be unable to treat or assist patients.
Update May 8
Today, the Executive extended the State of Emergency that allows 202.15-202.21 to remain in effect until June 7. Note: NY PAUSE still expires on May 15.
Update May 7
The Governor released Executive Order 202.28 today which extended prior orders 202-202.14 through June 7 (with minor modifications). The order also states that all schools statewide are to remain closed through the remainder of their academic year.
Update May 5
The Governor released Executive Order 202.27 this evening. It allows professionals, previously named in a COVID related EO, that are not licensed or registered in New York, to continue practicing for 30 days.
Update May 4
- Construction, Manufacturing, Wholesale Supply and Select Retail (Curbside Pickup)
- Professional Services, Finance and Insurance, Retail, Administrative Support and Real Estate
- Restaurants, Food Service and Hotel Accommodations
- Sporting Venues, Arts, Entertainment and Education
- Long Island
- Capital Region
- Mohawk Valley
- North Country
- Central New York
- Southern Tier
- Finger Lakes
- Western New York
- A 2 week decline in hospitalizations and hospital deaths (or fewer than 15 new hospitalizations and five deaths in a 3-day average)
- New hospitalizations must be less than two per 100,000 residents (3 day average)
- Hospitals in the region must have a 90 day stock of PPE
- Hospitals must have at least 30% of their beds vacant, including intensive care
- Monthly COVID 19 testing (30/1000) in the region
- At least 30 contract tracers per 100,000 residents
In addition to the above, the Governor encouraged regions and its businesses to begin establishing protocols and their reopening plans sooner, than later. Note: The full-phase in will take months not weeks.
NYLA Executive Director, Jeremy Johannesen & Director Government Relations & Advocacy, Briana McNamee sent a letter to all New York federal representatives asking for addition financial support for state and local governments. The letter can be seen here.
Update May 1
This evening, the Governor made several announcements including the closure of all K-12 schools and colleges through the remainder of the academic year. In addition, Executive Order 202.26 was released which reschedules all remaining elections, including libraries and calls for the Board of Elections to provide absentee ballots.
Update April 30
Last night, the Governor published his lastest order that expands two previous EO's in regards to healthcare. The first, for birthing centers and delivering mothers and the second, allowing elective surgeries in certain counties.
Update April 25
The State's newest Executive Order was released this evening. The Order allows pharmacists to receieve and test individuals for COVID 19 and its antibodies.
Update April 24
The Governor introduced Executive Order 202.23 which postpones all special elections scheduled for April to June & requires an absentee ballot appplication to be sent to all voters in New York for sed elections.
Update April 22
The State's newest Executive Order, 202.22 was released this morning. The main components of the order involve tax law and the authority of county executives.
Update April 20
The Executive released 3 new orders over the weekend. Issues range from marriage license processes, federal PPP distribution and state-wide testing procedures.
Update April 17
Governor Cuomo released Executive Order 202.18 over night that extends the PAUSE Act through May 15.
Update April 15
As of 8pm today, all essential employees who are in direct contact with customers and the public must wear a face covering. Employers are responsible for providing the face coverings to their staff, at their expense. This policy can be enforced by local government or local law enforcement.
The Governor introduced Executuive Order 202.17 that will go into effect on Friday. Everyone over the age of 2 must where a face-covering in public when they cannot maintain a safe, social distance.
Update April 13
Governor Cuomo has released a new Executive Order authorizing antibody testing, postponing political caucuses and, requiring essential employers to provide face coverings for their staff.
Update April 10
In response to inquiries NYLA offers the following guidance and recommendations. Though reviewed by NYLA legal counsel, libraries are strongly advised to consult with their own attorney regarding local situations.
1. Should my library be closed?
It is NYLA’s position that all library facilities in the state should currently be closed due to the health and safety concerns raised by COVID-19. We cannot encourage alternative “in-person” services such as curb-side pickup in respect of the health and safety of the public and all library personnel.
Association Libraries must currently be closed pursuant to NYS Executive Order 202.8, issued March 20, 2020, which stipulated that all non-essential businesses suspend in-person operations.
Public libraries (i.e., municipal, school district and special legislative district public libraries) are currently required to allow non-essential personnel to work from home pursuant to Executive Order 202.4, issued March 16, 2020. Personnel working from home must total at least 50% of the total number of employees in the library’s workforce. This calculation needs to be understood in the context of social distancing best practices; if you cannot assure a workplace for the remaining staff that respects social distancing best practices it would be advisable to have a higher percentage of staff working from home, if not all staff work from home.
The social distancing regulations that govern all libraries make it virtually impossible for any library to be open to the public at this time.
2. What percentage of my staff should be working from home?
NYS Executive Order 202.8, issued March 20, 2020, stipulated that all non-essential business suspend in-person operations, moving to a 100% tele-commuting model.
The Empire State Development Corporation (EDC) issued expanded “Guidance for Determining Whether a Business Enterprise is Subject to a Workforce Reduction Under Recent Executive Orders” and related FAQ.
It is reasonable to have staff go to the library to check on the facility, pick up mail, and deal with payroll.
As per Executive Order 202.4, public libraries may have more staff in the facility for on-site projects, but only if social distancing guidelines can be achieved.
3. Can we apply for government loans such as CARES Act, SBA loans, and Payroll Protection Program (PPP) ?
As with any grant program , or in this case, forgivable loan program, it is important to first understand the intent behind the program. If you determine your situation aligns with the intent, the next step is to determine your eligibility to access funds through the program.
For example, the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) is meant for those businesses and nonprofits which are experiencing a significant decline in revenues during the COVID-19 work-from-home orders. If your library has a voter approved appropriation that covers the majority of your operating costs for the coming year, this program was not designed for you. However, if your library relies heavily on fundraising for the majority of your operating cost and staff layoffs are on the horizon because of this, then this program may be appropriate for your situation.
Association libraries who determine one of the CARES Act programs are a good fit are eligible for any program offered to nonprofits.
Public libraries interested in one of the CARES Act programs may find the path to accessing funds through these programs challenging and should consult legal counsel and assistance from a knowledgeable lender or accountant, prior to applying.
Special thanks to Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Ellen Bach, Jerry Nichols, and Robert Schofield for their assistance in developing this guidance.
Public Library Legal Designations
During this public health crisis, our libraries are facing unprecedented challenges. Many libraries throughout the state have questions about the status of libraries as public or private entities. Please consult your Library’s attorney for the specifics of your particular situation.
The following information is set forth in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (p.10) http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/trustees/handbook/index.html:
“Public libraries (municipal, school district and special legislative district) are, by definition, a government entity ….”
“An association library is a private corporation established by the members of the association…”.
Additionally, as you consider the growing number of federal aid programs, please keep in mind the following information set forth in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (p.10):
“…Every association library should obtain federal tax-exempt status under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This exemption allows the library to avoid federal tax liability and also to be eligible to receive tax-deductible gifts…”
Things are more complicated in this realm for public libraries (municipal, school district and special legislative district) as public libraries have been historically treated unevenly by the IRS in their determination of 501(c)(3) status. Many public libraries have been granted this status by the IRS, others have not and were issued a ruling or determination letter to confirm their status as tax exempt organizations in the eyes of the IRS.
Update April 9
Governor Andrew Cuomo released a new Executive Order that expands the capabilities of medical professionals, grants absentee voting for elections happening before June 23, and offers more leniancy to pharmacies.
Update April 7
Governor Cuomo released a cumbersome Executive Order that includes an extension of the PAUSE Act until April 29, as well as other items effecting the general public and businesses.
Update March 30
The latest Executive Order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo postpones all library votes previously scheduled to take place in April or May, to be moved to June 1, 2020 (or later).
Update March 27
NYLA is closely monitoring the rapidly changing legislative season including, most recently, the process to determine and implement a state-wide budget. COVID-19 has upended the traditional process that we have become familiar with and instead replaced it will uncertainty.
At this time, the one-house budgets from the state’s Senate and Assembly appear to be off the table. With ever-changing revenue projections, the proposals that both houses had been drafting prior to the pandemic, became moot. Deemed essential by the Governor, the Legislature is making accommodations to allow members to participate virtually. However, is it still undetermined whether they will convene for the remainder of the calendar year after the budget is adopted.
Governor Cuomo has signaled (3/26) that he is considering a ‘flexible budget’ that will be reevaluated on a continuous basis, with adjustments built in at each step to reflect the state’s fiscal health. The proposal led to more questions than we have been provided answers. The final crafting of the FY2020-21 New York State budget is expected to take place largely ‘behind the scenes’ between the Governor, Senate Majority Leader, and Assembly Speaker.
Prior to yesterday’s briefing, the Governor stated, “To be advocating for more state funding is beyond the pale of a colorable claim,” and continued, “The state is broke.”
Historically, NYLA has asked the community to engage in traditional grassroots efforts that include letter writing or telephone-campaigns. However, given the current landscape, we shifted our advocacy strategy and completed targeted messaging instead. In addition, the NYLA staff is hard at work interacting with members of the Legislature, their staff members, members of the press, and allied associations to gather information and influence the outcomes.
We know the next few weeks feel uncertain and for many, it’s overwhelming, but we are confident in the commitment of the New York library community and their ability to serve their patrons with the essential resources and information they need. We are strongest together.
3-27 Statement as PDF
Update March 25
Update March 20
The latest Executive Order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo requires non-essential businesses to reduce their in-house workforce by 75%. Libraries remaining open will be required to reduce their in-person staff by Friday, March 21 at 8:00 p.m.
Update March 18
Governor Andrew Cuomo his issued a number of Executive Orders in relation to COVID-19.
Update March 15
NYLA recognizes that the 'large gathering ban' from the Governor's Office provides an exemption for libraries. That said, the volume of visitors into a library on a given day makes it a exceptionally difficult to safeguard public and employee health, and to curtail community transmission.
As stated, the decision to suspend public operations is best made at the local level in consultation with county level health department officials.
Update March 14
Libraries are a gathering place in the community, frequently bringing together significant numbers of people. In order to minimize opportunities for transmission, and to protect both community members' health and library employees, the New York Library Association is recommending that public libraries in New York State suspend public operations based on the guidance issued from the Governor’s office.
The New York Library Association is committed to supporting its members, library workers, and their patrons during this difficult time.
During times of crisis, libraries have a critical roll to play in supporting the communities they serve, both in-person or electronically. By connecting patrons with accurate information, libraries empower users to act in a thoughtful and measured manner.
Below is a small sample of communications issued by some New York State libraries, and some other resources.
We offer our thanks to all libraries, and their staff, for their efforts to serve their communities during the pandemic.
From the American Library Association
We are also providing the following guidance for members and their institutions:
Stopping the spread of the virus:
ALA is aware that many higher education institutions are suspending or moving classes online and are making decisions about sustaining library services. We recognize that these decisions about whether to remain open are best made locally and should include consideration of the wellbeing of staff and library users. We also know that in the last several days, many public library systems across the US have made the difficult decision to close. Similarly, as school systems send students home or move to remote learning, school libraries are closing, too.
If libraries stay open, they should follow CDC recommendations for environmental cleaning and disinfection. They should also encourage their staff and users to take basic steps to avoid spreading germs, including:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
Serving our communities during the pandemic:
Libraries and librarians are trusted information specialists, and we can play a role in not only slowing the spread of the disease but also the spread of misinformation. Point library users to vital websites like the World Health Organization, CDC, local public health websites, and other trusted sources. Consider putting up COVID-19 resources on your library’s home page (see, for example, Seattle Public Library’s digital response.) Ensure that library users and non-users alike know about the valuable resources libraries have to offer, such as support for teachers and students engaging in online instruction; access to hotspots, ebooks, subscriptions to online magazines and news sources; and curated lists to COVID-19 news and examples of best-practice responses.
We know that many libraries are facing closings in light of regional public health strategies, while others are being asked to expand their services at this time.
We also applaud the numerous examples of librarians creating rapid response information sources and serving on community-wide task forces to help with messaging, information resources, and other preparedness measures. We know many of you are doing the hard work on the ground right now, and your perspective and experience is invaluable. Keep up the great work and please continue to share the resources you are creating with us.
Libraries are local institutions and decisions about how and if to continue to hold programs should be made using the best and most recent information available from local public health agencies. Libraries are gathering places and serve as integral parts of their communities. Decision makers will need to weigh the well-being of staff, library users, and the community when making changes to library service hours, programs or policies given their local contexts.
A Note About NYLA Sponsored Events
The health and safety of our members, staff, and conference attendees is our primary concern and will influence all decisions we make. We are also considering contingencies. We recognize that traveling to conferences is a choice that each attendee will need to make based on their individual situation. NYLA will continue to monitor the latest developments and will provide updates regarding any changes in NYLA sponsored events.
As of Friday, March 13, we are seeing many libraries suspend all programming, outside group-use of meeting spaces, and outreach activities. Some libraries are moving to a temporary complete shutdown of operations. These examples are provided as a simple sampling of communications being issued by some libraries in New York State. Operational decisions are best handled on the local level, and this information is not intended as guidance.
Albany Public Library (3/13)
Baldwin Public Library (3/12)
New York Public Library (closing from 3/14 – 3/31)