Sharing of library re-opening planning during COVID-19

CAUL recently conducted a survey of member planning and approaches to re-opening their physical libraries in Australia and New Zealand amid easing restrictions being announced by each country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 32 out of 47 CAUL members responded to the survey which included seven questions about the timing of re-opening, major challenges, measures being taken to open safely, work place flexibility and staff arrangements, greatest priorities, and information worth sharing. We have made a copy of the survey questionnaire available for re-use (link to PDF). 

The bar chart shows the proportion of members that chose each of the five response options (up to 100%), the question was multiple choice & 62.5% of members chose more than one option.


The bar charts show the proportion of members that chose each of the available response options (up to 100%), the question was multiple choice.

We asked CAUL members to share how they were managing staff arrangements in the return to campus.

Practically a phased or rostered approach was preferred among members for managing the return to work, staggered commencing and finishing times were also being considered “to reduce load on public transport and facilitate social distancing during peak travel times”. Members talked about the challenges faced when balancing the competing pressures on staff to return to the library while maintaining flexible work arrangements. The return to university campus was complicated by growing budget pressure on staffing (leave and recruitment), travel and access to operating funds. Some members expected that a large proportion of staff would continue to work from home while the library continued to offer predominantly online services into the near future.

“We will also be providing a quasi-service for the front of our library where students can access staff through our chat service from the front service point (will move to video service if our bandwidth allows it)”.

Staff health and wellbeing was a high priority for members, clear and frequent communication including regular checking, daily meetings and all staff forums (all virtual of course) were essential. One member reported using story-telling to capture information about the ongoing decision making process, key events, and communication methods being deployed. The intention was to help staff gather their thoughts and experiences in a reflective way to “ensure that what we create as our new way of working is better than what we had pre-COVID-19”. Another member reported circulating articles about different psychological reactions staff may have to working from home and returning to campus, and encouraged discussion of these within team, which has been positively received.

Several members reported consulting extensively with staff on plans to ‘Return to Campus’ while others were following their institutions framework or exploring university-wide policy and processes to support to support staff transitioning.

We also asked CAUL members to share any tips and approaches that they thought would be useful to other libraries when re-opening:

  • Leading a robust post-COVID review in preparation for the institution’s process. 
  • Using a booking system to manage student visits in the library.
  • Implementing digital service desks for frontline engagement.
  • Increasing individual/group study spaces for students to attend online sessions.
  • The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) guidelines for reopening libraries.
  • Following the latest information and advice including the Australian and New Zealand government roadmaps.

For more information (including links to resources such as ALIA’s guidelines) we maintain a list of useful COVID-19 related resources provided by organisations on our website.

Author Harry Rolf
Last modified 10 June 2020