Congratulations to those public libraries that have made significant progress in reopening their doors for in-person services! With more New Yorkers now vaccinated, and good news such as the recent CDC guidelines about surface transmission, the State Library is seeing more and more libraries in the State reopening to the public and no longer having to quarantine library materials. With assistance from New York’s 23 public library systems, a NYSL/PULISDO Reopening Committee has been collecting and reviewing monthly snapshot data about the status of library reopening since late fall 2020. The March 2021 snapshot data indicates that 73% of public libraries are currently meeting minimum standards for open hours.
Therefore, by June 1, 2021, the State Library expects that all 756 public libraries will once again be open to the public for their required minimum hours and all Central Libraries will once again be open for their required minimum of 55 hours per week. To help achieve these goals, “open hours” can include both curbside/lobby hours and onsite services. Hours open are defined as any time a patron receives direct, in person services. Hours open include a regular, publicized schedule of hours during which the public directly interacts with library staff. Email and telephone services alone will not be included. We look forward to every New Yorker having the opportunity to visit their library for curbside/lobby pickup and/or in-library services before school is out for the summer.
Please let your Library System know ASAP if there are issues with compliance by June 1. The Public Library Systems would like to help member libraries be successful in meeting this requirement.
Central Libraries should contact the State Library ASAP if there are issues with compliance before June 1. The State Library would like to help systems and central libraries be successful in meeting this requirement. Please contact Frank Rees at 518-474-1565 or Francis.Rees@nysed.gov.
The New York State Library hosted two Minimum Open Hours Q&A webinars in April 2021. Each webinar provided an overview of the decision-making process and answered questions about the NYS Library’s expectation that all 756 public libraries will once again be open to the public for their required minimum hours by June 1, 2021.
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By June 1, 2021 all 756 Public Libraries will once again be open to the public for their required minimum hours as per Commissioner’s Regulation 90.2 and all Central Libraries are expected to be open 55 hours per week as per Commissioner’s Regulation 90.4.
The State Library’s current definition of “hours open” for the purpose of June 1, 2021 compliance with NYS minimum standards includes curbside and/or lobby service hours. The State Library will continue to monitor the situation with COVID-19 and the reopening status of local libraries and will notify library systems and libraries at least two months in advance if curbside and lobby service hours will no longer be accepted as “hours open” for the purposes of minimum standards compliance. Please note this does not change how open hours are reported on the annual report which is based on federal definition—refer to question below.
The State Library has received a number of questions about how libraries will report “hours open” for the 2021 Annual Report. Please note that the definition for hours open for the 2021 Annual Report will not change. The Annual Report definition is a federally determined definition and does not include curbside or lobby service hours.
For the minimum standard question related to hours open, libraries should continue to report using the federal definition.
Minimum Standards for Public Libraries are outlined in Section 90.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Libraries are required to meet minimum standards in order to retain their registration. Education Law requires that a library be chartered and registered in order to legally receive local and State public funds.
If a library is unable to comply with one or more of the minimum standards, the director or board president should contact the library system to discuss available options. Commissioner's Regulation 90.2 provides a process for libraries that cannot achieve compliance with a standard because of circumstances beyond the library board's control.
Telephone and email interactions are a valuable way to share information with community members. However, open hours are intended to provide patrons with access to a fuller range of library services, including physical access to library materials.
Significant progress has already been made in libraries reopening their doors for in-person services and the State Library is seeing more and more libraries reopening to the public. The March 2021 Snapshot Survey conducted by the NYSL/PULISDO Reopening Committee indicates that 73% of libraries are currently meeting minimum standards for open hours and that 99% of libraries have regularly scheduled hours. With 46.6% of all New Yorkers having received one vaccine dose and with 35.2% of all New Yorkers fully vaccinated combined with the revised CDC guidelines about surface transmission that should reassure libraries that the quarantining of library materials is not a necessary precaution, June 1 was selected as the target reopening date.
With the increasing number of vaccinations and continued compliance with masking, social distancing, and building capacity protocols, staff and patron safety should not be compromised when libraries open on June 1. Please see the NY Forward page with reopening guidelines that are intended to assure safe practices around reopening.
Member libraries should reach out to their system director for guidance.
Central Libraries should reach out to the Frank Rees at the New York State Library, Division of Library Development: 518-474-1565 or Francis.Rees@nysed.gov and notify their system director.
The March 2021 Snapshot Survey indicates that 73% of public libraries are already meeting minimum standards for open hours and 99% of libraries have regularly scheduled hours. We expect that all libraries will either be open on June 1 or will have worked with their library system to develop a compliance plan outlining the steps they will take toward reopening.
Yes, Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement that capacity restrictions are being lifted on May 19, including the elimination of business capacity, will give libraries more flexibility in safely reopening and achieving minimum hours by June 1. Business capacity limits will be replaced with space available to maintain six feet of social distancing (official press release). Please see the NY Forward page with reopening guidelines that are intended to assure safe practices around reopening.Back to Top