New Playbook for Libraries in Public Health Emergencies


Public libraries have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on many levels. Navigating the sea of decision-making related to communicating during a crisis, managing staff needs, and maintaining our facilities have been major tasks. The newly released Public Health Crisis Management Playbook for Archives, Libraries, and Museums offers a set of guiding processes, resources, and tools to aid cultural heritage institutions when planning for, navigating through, and recovering from a significant public health emergency.

The playbook is part of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project, which looked at the issues and challenges being faced by archive, library and museum staff during the pandemic, and also identified many common solutions and approaches that are applicable across sectors. This publication will be useful for any staff who will take part in a crisis management planning or communications team. The playbook is highly adaptable to fit organizations of all sizes, so even the smallest of public libraries can benefit from exploring the questions and activities.

This playbook is available for use online and as a downloadable PDF document, and includes four chapters and an appendix covering the following topics:

  • Crisis leadership—Provides starting points for crisis management and communications planning
  • Facilities and operations—Offers considerations for determining processes for decision-making about collections management, space configuration, building systems, and safety protocols
  • Crisis decision-making and risk management—Overviews risk assessment, information gathering, and decision-making during uncertain times
  • Resource networks—Shares strategies for identifying partners and maintaining collaborative relationships, including a tool for visualizing an institution’s potential partners during a crisis
  • Resources for more information—Provides all resources used to develop this document, as well as additional materials that can be used in developing a public health crisis management plan

By applying what was learned during the COVID-19 pandemic experience, this playbook offers a starting point for inquiry on a range of topics that emerged as high priorities for cultural heritage professionals, including public libraries, when preparing for and navigating through a public health crisis. Each institution can adapt the information for the context of a local institution and community. Taking proactive steps to consider what needs to be part of your library’s crisis management plan will help to face public health emergencies in an informed and well-thought-out manner.

View the playbook

REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is a research partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services.  

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