COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in all communities in the US. At least one library worker has died, and students, staff, and faculty members at colleges and universities around the country have contracted the virus. We need to put on the pressure at the local level more than ever, as it's unlikely at this point that most hold-out jurisdictions will listen to advice from state or professional associations.
Taking inspiration from our friends at Building Up People Not Prisons, we've pulled together this weekly course of action to help push for library closures around the country.
Call/email/tweet at the director of the library in question or whomever that person reports to.
Call/email/tweet at the city, town, or college/university administration in question.
Call/email/tweet at state representatives and senators in your area.
Call/email/tweet at your governor.
(Note you can find longer-form examples and templates for recommendations and petitions on this page.)
Dear [Recipients], My name is __________ and I'm calling/emailing because I want to voice my support for completely closing XYZ Library.
By continuing in-person services or staffing, employees and patrons/students are being exposed to unnecessary risk of COVID-19 transmission. With medical professionals in agreement that staying at home is the best possible defense against this deadly virus, I'm urging you to do your part and stop these non-essential services immediately.
Library staff should not be forced to choose between their jobs and their safety and should be sent home with full undocked pay for the duration of this crisis.
Dear Governor X, My name is __________ and I'm calling/emailing because I want to voice my support for immediately and completely closing all libraries in the state of X.
Libraries have not been specifically named in stay-at-home orders and as a result, library staff and patrons are unnecessarily leaving their homes and putting themselves at transmission risk for COVID-19 as many libraries are continuing in-person services such as curbside delivery. To help strictly enforce stay-at-home orders and do whatever we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, we need you to order that all libraries cease these services immediately.
No library work is essential during a global pandemic, and any protective equipment being used at libraries should be given to medical professionals who need it far more urgently. Library staff should not be forced to choose between their jobs and their safety and should be sent home with full undocked pay for the duration of this crisis.
Dear [@library/university in question], I've just heard from a parent of one of your students that you're still open to the public to help w/distance learning, etc. Your staff need to be at home safe, PAID, to #flattenthecurve. No library service is essential right now #closethelibraries
Good evening, [@library/officials]! Word on the street is "concierge services" are offered at X Library System. Curbside pickup unnecessarily endangers library staff & patrons. Why not focus only on digital services instead? #closethelibraries
X Library is still offering curbside, even though they seem v aware of the risk judging by their website. Contact X state gov (@governor) & city's staff at X Website or X Phone Number to let them know this is dangerously wrong. #closethelibraries
Dear [@library/officials], X Library needs to be fully closed. Staff should be sent home with pay immediately. There is no service a library can provide right now that surpasses the benefit of ensuring staff & patrons alike are staying at home. #FlattenTheCurve #closethelibraries
When public health experts urge social distancing as a life-saving measure, no service a library can provide is more important than protecting the lives of both our patrons & our workers. @governor, please act to #closethelibraries and protect & pay X State's library workers.
closethelibraries.org wasn't written by labor lawyers, but here are some initial things to consider:
In most cases, your first step is to get everyone on the same page on your staff and agree on some unified messaging. Then, round up the posse and let everyone and their mom know what's happening, in whatever way makes sense for your context. Get in touch with as many public officials as possible. See if you can get statements from any prominent community members in your defense, particularly from healthcare workers or experts.
Labor Notes is a media and organizing project that has been helping union and non-union workers fight back against oppressive management tactics for decades. They're happy to assist libraries with their unique situations and are especially focused on responses specific to COVID-19.
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Alexandra (Al) Bradbury, Editor, Labor Notes, New York Office