MHLS COVID-19 Updates to Member Libraries

July 15, 2022 | 12:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Yesterday the Governor signed Executive Order 11.8, “Declaring a Disaster Emergency in the State of New York,” which allows for the extension of online board meetings through August 13th, 2022.

March 16, 2022 | 8:30pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has extended the State of Emergency due to COVID-19 until April 15. This means remote board meetings under Open Meetings Law (OML) are still allowable until that date.

The Committee on Open Government’s web site still says OML adjustments sunset tonight, but I would imagine they will update that in the morning.

March 16, 2022 | 2:45pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Executive Order 11 (.1, .2, .3), declaring a disaster emergency in the State of New York expires at midnight tonight. There is no word yet on whether or not there will be an extension, although Albany insiders are leaning towards thinking the Governor will allow it to sunset.

Pandemic-era adjustments to Open Meetings Law would go away in that case, and, in fact, the Committee on Open Government is opening noting that the authority to hold remote meetings will expire today. There is pending legislation to consider the future of online/hybrid board meetings but we may not see that pass until the end of the NY legislative session (June). Your boards may be confused, concerned and/or irritated if they have gotten comfortable with the flexibility that has been allowed with the current adjustments. Just a reminder that the NYS Committee on Open Government provides excellent documentation about the law, advisory opinions and responsive staff to answer questions if you need to brush up on your understanding of how the law was implemented in pre-pandemic times.

February 26, 2022 | 10:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As predicted, late yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new guidance for limiting the spread of COVID-19, hopefully as a long-term strategy to learn to live with COVID-19 in our communities. Guidance issued by the CDC has traditionally been adopted by the NYS Department of Health, so we will keep our eye on the NYS side of this as well.

The CDC’s new COVID-19 Community Levels are a “tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. Take precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 based on the COVID-19 Community Level in your area.”

Currently, all five MHLS area counties are rated as “Low.” You can monitor this on CDC’s website.

February 25, 2022 | 2:45pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As the clock winds down on this Friday, I wanted to be sure you’ve seen that it is expect that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to release new guidance for determining when and where people should wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid crowded indoor spaces. It is predicted we will see that today.

Reports indicate that the new guidelines will no longer rely on only the number of cases in a community to determine the need for restrictions like masks. Instead, they will direct counties to consider three measures to assess risk of the virus:

  • new Covid-related hospital admissions over the previous week
  • the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, and
  • new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous week.

This is being described as long-term strategy that allows lives to return to a “new normal” and with hopes that it helps surges to be recognized sooner.

February 15, 2022 | 10:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Today the Governor extended the executive order related to the declaration of the state disaster emergency through March 16th, 2022. This is tied to the law extending the adjustments to Open Meetings Law “to meet and take such action authorized by law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorize such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed.” Source: Committee on Open Government

On February 9th the NYS Department of Labor updated its Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans again. The new model plan replaces the prior language with respect to face coverings with the following: Effective February 10, 2022: Employees will wear appropriate face coverings in accordance with guidance from State Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as applicable. Consistent with the guidance from the State Department of Health, if indoor areas do not have a mask or vaccine requirement as a condition of entry, appropriate face coverings are recommended, but not required. It is also recommended that face coverings be worn by unvaccinated individuals, including those with medical exemptions, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State’s masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, health care, child care, group homes, and other sensitive settings in accordance with CDC guidelines. New York State and the State Department of Health continue to strongly recommend face coverings in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required. As a reminder, all association libraries are required to have a board approved Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention plan under the NY HERO Act. Public Libraries are required to have a Health Emergency Plan.

February 11, 2022 | 8:30am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

I have received several questions about Open Meetings Law adjustments that allow for remote meetings so wanted to provide you with this document from the Committee on Open Government which indicates the adjustments sunset February 15th unless additional action is taken at the state level: 

February 9, 2022 | 12:30pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As predicted, Governor Hochul is lifting the Mask Requirement as of tomorrow.

She was very clear that indoor businesses, which libraries are in this case, no longer have to enforce mask wearing or ask for vaccination status. However, she was equally claer that businesses still have the option of requiring masks or vaccination for patrons or employees if they would like to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to upgrade the data on the pandemic at the county-level to help local folks make decisions.

At this time, the NYS Department of Health has not updated their guidance on this issue. We’ll keep our eye on their web site and let you know when that changes.

February 8, 2022 | 8:00 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

All signs are pointing towards the Governor dropping the mask mandate, likely tomorrow. Just wanted to give you as much notice as possible as those libraries operating under board policy that mandates masks may be in for another rough day or three. Particularly if there is another lag is the issuance of workplace guidance from the Department of Health.

I will post as soon as we get confirmation about the status of the mask mandate.

January 31, 2022 | 9:08am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has extended the mask mandate for another 10 days, to February 10th.

January 25, 2022 | 5:28pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

A New York appeals court judge just ruled that the indoor mask mandate will remain in effect.

January 17, 2022 | 1:47pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Starting on Wednesday, Americans can order at-home tests through a government website: Every home in the U.S. will be able to order four (4) free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests will be completely free—there are no shipping costs, and you don’t need to enter a credit card number.

This once again, prioritizes access for those who are digitally literate in our communities. Libraries are well positions to both promote this site in the community for those who don’t know about its existence and to assist folks who may not have the digital wherewithal to fill out the form on the site.

While I can hear some of you saying “there aren’t enough tests to go around anyway so why is Rebekkah bothering us about this” I do think it is important to share this now because 1) there are going to be a lot of scam sites out there that trick folks into giving personal and financial information that compromises their privacy and 2) to position libraries as a go-to place for help with answers to questions about government services that are offered exclusively online.

January 15, 2022 | 11:16am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has signed the bill to extend the Open Meetings Law adjustments that allow for remote meetings “during the COVID-19 state disaster emergency.”

January 13, 2022 | 8:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Both houses of the New York State Legislature have passed a bill that would extend the current adjustments to Open Meetings Law that enables online meetings throughout the remainder of the state emergency. As of right now, these provisions would sunset on January 15.

The bill has been delivered to the Governor and it is expected she will sign this quickly.

I will let you know as soon as we hear more.

January 5, 2022 | 4:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The New York State Department of Health has, on an “interim” basis, adopted the Center for Disease Control’s new quarantine/isolation guidance. The details can be found here: and in the attached document.

As evidenced on the Directors’ list today we see the various counties within MHLS are updating their health department’s guidance to reflect this since this was announced within the past 24 hours. You will want to ensure your county’s health department has clearly adopted this as well before changing local practice.

You may be following the news this week that the CDC is being pressured to introduce a testing caveat to the 5-day quarantine guidance, I believe this is why NYS DOH is calling what was announced yesterday “interim.”

January 3, 2022 | 1:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The State Librarian has provided the following statement regarding the issue of regularly scheduled open hours to meet the minimum standards:

“On  January 1, libraries must provide regularly scheduled open hours that meet minimum requirements.  These regularly scheduled hours must be for in-person services; curbside and lobby services no longer count toward hours open.

We understand that libraries might have to close temporarily due to operational issues like temporary staff shortages.  As always, those temporary deviations do not have to be reported and will not count against regularly scheduled hours open. However, the expectation is that otherwise libraries will remain open and serving the public through in-person services.”

December 31st, 2021 | 3:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Today the Governor announced the “mask or vax” mandate has been extended from January 15 to February 1, 2022.

She also shared that New York State has an inventory of 5 million KN95 masks heading out to counties across the state. She is urging folks to “upgrade” from cloth masks only to KN95s. Here is a good article from NPR that explains why.

To my knowledge, there has not been an extension of the NYS Open Meetings Law adjustments beyond January 15th.

December 29th, 2021 | 9:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

We currently have three MHLS member libraries that have COVID-19 infection rates high enough among staff that they report they can no longer staff a facility open to the public. As you may recall, on December 1st the State Librarian notified the library community that effective January 1, 2022, “only in building hours will be accepted for the purposes of minimum standards compliance.” We have reached out to the staff at the NYS Division of Library Development to advocate that in cases such as those described above – where it is not a choice of the library but a necessity – waivers should be granted. However, at this time, no relief from the January 1 benchmark for what qualifies as “open hours” has been provided. Please keep this in mind as you make decisions about service levels.

My apologies for not contextualizing my post yesterday about the CDC changes to quarantine/isolation guidance. As pointed out by Mr. Lawrence, NYS Department of Health has not yet adopted that guidance. All signs indicate they will do so shortly as they have already followed suit on this guidance for healthcare/essential workers as per CDC guidance. Therefore, we wait. I will keep you posted as best I can.

December 28th, 2021 | 10:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended time for isolation and quarantine for the general population:

  • “…CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others… If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.”
  • “…CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19 <> . For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.”
  • “Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.”

Check out the handy chart at the bottom of the announcement: “CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population <> ,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

December 13th, 2021 | 1:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Guidance has been issued related to the new mask mandate and is available here.

It clarifies many of the questions directors have been asking over the past few days so please review it. For example:

How is ‘indoor public place’ defined, and what type of businesses and venues are included under this requirement?
Indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence. This means businesses and venues New Yorkers typically frequent that are either publicly owned or owned by private business entities. This includes indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings.

Does this policy apply to office spaces?
Yes, the requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces. If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.

Can a business or venue “mix and match”? For example, can a business or venue allow fully vaccinated patrons to be unmasked, but unvaccinated or partially vaccinated patrons to wear masks in the same indoor facility? What about allowing patrons to be unmasked when everyone in in the facility is fully vaccinated, but asking everyone in the facility to wear a mask when someone who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated enters?
No. A business or venue must choose whether it will implement a full-course vaccine requirement or a mask requirement, which applies to both patrons and employees and then must be followed in its entirety throughout the facility at all times each day.

December 13th, 2021 | 11:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has announced that effective December 13th, masks must be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. For more information, please see the Governor’s press release. The State Library recommends that all libraries follow this guidance. For more information directors can consult the COVID-19 Update on the MHLS Notice-List and the NYS Department of Health’s FAQ: Proof of Full Vaccination or Mask Requirement for Businesses and Venues.

December 10, 2021 | 11:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

This morning the Governor has announced that effective December 13th, masks must be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

For more information, please see the Governor’s press release.

November 2, 2021 | 4:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The NYS Health Commissioner has officially posted the extension of the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” through December 15, 2021. For association libraries this is official notice that your mandated airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans should be activated through this date as per the NY HERO Act.

October 5, 2021 | 4:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

1. The NYS Health Commissioner has officially posted the extension of the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” through October 31, 2021. For association libraries this is official notice that your mandated airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans should be activated through this date as per the NY HERO Act.

2. On October 1st the State Librarian announced that effective January 1, 2022 only in building hours will be accepted for the purposes of minimum standards compliance. You will need to notify MHLS by November 30th if your library will not be in compliance with minimum open hours by January 1. A memo will be sent to each director and board president to ensure this is clear so we have no misunderstandings at Annual Report to the State-time.

September 7, 2021 | 1:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

At the direction of the governor, the NYS commissioner of health has designated COVID-19 a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health under New York State’s HERO Act, which requires private employers like association libraries to implement workplace safety plans in the event of an airborne infectious disease. Public Libraries are not required to implement Health Emergency Plans at this point, which are triggered by the declaration, by the governor, of a public health emergency involving a communicable disease.

The HERO Act Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard outlines the steps below when implementing the organization’s plan.

Section 8. Implementation of the exposure prevention plan during an outbreak of an airborne infectious disease:

  • When a highly contagious communicable disease is designated by the Commissioner of Health as
    presenting a serious risk of harm to the public health, each employer shall:

    • Immediately review the worksite’s exposure prevention plan and update the plan, if necessary, to ensure that it incorporates current information, guidance, and mandatory requirements issued by federal, state, or local governments related to the infectious agent of concern;
    •  Finalize and promptly activate the worksite exposure prevention plan;
    • Provide the verbal review required in paragraph (d) of this section; and
    • Provide each employee with a copy of the exposure prevention plan in English or in the language
      identified as the primary language of such employees, if available, and

      • Post a copy of the exposure prevention plan in a visible and prominent location at the worksite and
      • Ensure that a copy of the exposure prevention plan is accessible to employees during all work shifts.
    • Employers that utilize a template exposure prevention plan prepared by the Department of Labor shall not be responsible for errors in translations relating to such.

September 3, 2021 | 9:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The bill language is out and confirms our understanding from this morning. The Committee on Open Government issued the attached memo confirming it mirrors the adjustments made by Executive Order starting last March.

September 2, 2021 | 11:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As part of the eviction moratorium passed in Albany yesterday the legislature voted to suspend (or amend) portions of the Open Meetings Law until January 15, 2022. This will not go into effect until the Governor signs this into law but we think that will happen quickly since she is the one that pushed for this.

Specific details are forthcoming but it seems boards will be able to decide to:

  • Follow Open Meetings Law as it traditionally stands and hold fully in-person meetings that are fully open public meetings
  • Hold in person meetings for the board and staff and broadcast the meeting, tape it, and transcribe it and not allow the public into the meeting or,
  • Hold remote meetings where the board and staff are all remote and broadcast the meeting, tape it, and transcribe it.

August 31, 2021 | 10:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As a follow up, here are the details about the mask mandate for schools:

  • It is effective immediately for any person over the age of 2. Masks must be worn at all times indoors in pre-K to 12 school buildings regardless of vaccination status.
  • This includes all students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors and visitors.
  • Those with medical or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask may be exempted with proper documentation.
  • When eating, drinking, singing or playing a wind instrument, masks may be removed, but individuals must be spaced 6 feet apart.

August 31, 2021 | 9:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

FYI: At the direction of our new Governor, Kathy Hochul, the New York State Health Department has issued a mask mandate for all K-12 schools in New York for the upcoming school year.

A second round of funding through the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is opening for a 15-day window at the end of September (September 28-October 13). There is $2 billion still available. “The funding is available for the purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need, and is available to support off-campus learning, such as homework, even if schools have returned to full time in-person instruction.”

For more information:

August 23, 2021 | 10:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Just checking in with some reminders as I’ve received a number of calls/emails from directors asking if things are changing at the state/federal level. The short answer is currently no – no regulatory changes have been put in place nor has the CDC changed any guidance since early August. This means:

  • NYS Open Meetings Law is still in full effect. With our new Governor starting tomorrow we will certainly keep our eye on things but without the powers provided to a Governor in a declared state of emergency for the pandemic and without the legislature in session I do not anticipate much movement on this issue for some time. We have asked NYLA to make adjustments to OML a legislative priority for the coming legislative season.
  • The CDC Guidance on masks is unchanged: The CDC guidance notes that in addition to unvaccinated folks, vaccinated individuals should also wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. There is currently no federal or state mask mandate.
    • COVID-19 Integrated County View [CDC]: “This site provides an integrated, county view of key data for monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.” Level of community transmission is rated as “High,” “Substantial,” “Moderate,” or “Low” Please note this rating does change more frequently than you may think, weekly in some cases.
    • Since the August 2 update I provided on the MHLS-Notices list we have seen significant growth in the number of employers, nationwide, that are requiring the vaccine or routine testing of employees. This is extending beyond the Governor’s recommendation of a focus on health care workers and teachers. We will likely see this grow even more with the recent formal approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Just a reminder that in the absence of a local mandate, libraries of all types continue to have the right to set vaccination and testing mandates as they see fit based on advice from their attorney.
  • Conference Updates:
    • The CORE Forum in Baltimore scheduled for October 7-9 has been cancelled due to concerns about COVID.
    • At this time, the in-person NYLA Conference is still on.

As the school year quickly approaches, I would like to urge you all to brush off your messaging of how your library supports families both in a traditional school year and in the face of unexpected shifts to remote learning. As we are seeing in other parts of the country where the school year has already begun, the remote learning option may still be a major factor for many communities.

August 2, 2021 |12:39pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

At a press conference today, in light of a four-fold increase in COVID-19 infections in the past month, the Governor provided the following insights regarding mask and vaccine mandates:

  • Masks:
    • The State has not re-introduced a law mandating masks. The Governor did not rule out doing so in the near future should the rate of infection trend not slow down.
    • The State is asking “local governments” to decide for themselves if a mask mandate is necessary based on local infection rates* & **. The Governor strongly recommended local governments to adopt the updated CDC guidance*** on masks at this time.
      • In the absence of a local mandate, libraries of all types continue to have the right to set mask mandates as they see fit based on advice from the NYS Department of Health and CDC.
  • Vaccination:
    • The State is mandating vaccination or weekly COVID-19 tests for all state workers. The Governor did not rule out doing so in the near future should the trend not slow down.
    • The State is asking “local governments” to decide for themselves if employees need to follow suit.
    • The Governor is recommending that local governments require “public facing employees” in high risk environments to be vaccinated or be tested weekly as the state employees are. He provided examples of employees that fit that categorization as hospital workers, nursing home employees, and teachers.
      • In the absence of a local mandate, libraries of all types continue to have the right to set vaccination and testing mandates as they see fit based on advice from their attorney.
  • For your reference:

Reminder: The Governor is urging all New Yorkers to help get factual information out about vaccination to combat vaccine myths and help those who are “vaccine hesitant.” Your library’s platform as trusted source of local information can be used to spread factual, non-partisan information about vaccines.

Thursday, June 24, 2021 |4:46pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

A little clarity on the mask front: Federal CDC guidance remains in place for NYS, in other words, no change from where we were before they lifted the state of emergency.

Thursday, June 24, 2021 |8:42am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Committee on Open Government has announced that the authority for remote meetings ends today. As of June 25, 2021 Open Meetings Law again requires all meetings to be held IN PERSON.

I know many of you have been asking about masks and if CDC guidance will still be the order of the day here in NY with today’s announcement, that issue is not yet clear. Hoping we see messaging around that issue later today.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 |9:04am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • For those of you with questions about:
    • Whether or not yesterday’s announcement by the Governor regarding the lifting of restrictions impacts the mask mandate, it does not. The Governor’s press release from yesterday clearly says that unvaccinated individuals are responsible for continuing to wear a mask, as per CDC guidance.
    • Whether or not yesterday’s announcement by the Governor regarding the lifting of restrictions impacts the July 5th extension of the adjustments to Open Meetings Law, it does not. The Executive Order remains in play to allow that extension, as confirmed by our speaker from the Committee on Open Government at last night’s webinar.
  • On Friday, amendments to the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act) were signed into law to clarify that private employers (read: association libraries) have 30 days after the NYS Department of Labor publishes their model general standard and the model industry standard for an airborne infectious disease prevention plan to either adopt one of the model standards or develop and establish an alternative prevention plan that meets or exceeds the minimum standards as provided in the DOL model standards. At this time there are no standards provided on the DOL web site.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 |12:46pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

This is the best update I have written in the past 500 days.
The Governor announced today that the state restrictions have been lifted as we have reached the milestone of having 70% of adults receive at least one dose of the vaccine.
“Effective immediately, state-mandated COVID restrictions are lifted across commercial and social settings:
  • Social Gathering Limits
  • Capacity Restrictions
  • Social Distancing
  • Health Screening
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols
  • Contact Information for Tracing”
All of these actions are now described as “voluntary.”
While I know some of you may be working through the implications of this, I hope you will give yourself a moment today to stop and reflect, and recognize how much we have accomplished over these past 472 days to keep library workers and the public safe. We wouldn’t be at this point today without each and every one of us leading from where we sit in our organizations. Let’s keep leading our libraries and our system forward so that these restrictions don’t come back during this pandemic and let’s help more people than ever connect with the vital services provided by our libraries.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 |9:57am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Yesterday the Governor announced that the rate of adults in the state who have had at least one shot is 69.9%. Reminder: At 70% most of the NYS COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted and become optional at the local library level.
  • The adjustments to the NYS Open Meetings Law have been extended to July 5, 2021.

Friday, June 11, 2021 |10:05am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The NY Forward guidance for offices, one of the two guidance areas libraries fall under, was updated this week. The Dutchess Business Notification Network provided the following synopsis:

“The following changes have been made:

  • Certain occupancy limits have been removed or updated
  • A distinction has now been made in masking and social distancing requirements between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees
  • Requires an employer’s adherence to hygiene and cleaning and disinfection requirements as advised by the CDC and NY Department of Health

The guidance no longer requires employers to ask about symptoms, close contact, or COVID-19 infections that occurred in the last 14 days. Instead, the new daily health screening questions properly reflect the most current CDC and New York State Department of Health isolation and quarantine guidelines for COVID-19. The following three screening questions are required to be asked daily:

  1. Are you currently experiencing, or recently experienced (in the last 48 hours), any new or worsening COVID-19 symptoms?
  2. Have you had close contact (being within six feet for at least 10 minutes over a 24-hour period) or proximate contact (as determined by health authorities) in the past 10 days with any person confirmed by diagnostic test, or suspected based on symptoms, to have COVID-19?
  3. Have you tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 10 days?”

I know all eyes are now on the dashboard awaiting the day that we hit the threshold of 70% of adults having received their first shot but it is interesting to note they are still updating guidance even with that on the horizon…

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 |8:17am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Yesterday, the Governor made a big announcement that most remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in New York State when 70% of adult New Yorkers have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently 68.8% of New Yorkers over the age of 18 have received at least one shot. Guesses among Cuomo’s top aids at the press conference as to when 70% will be reached were anywhere from 8 days to “early July.”
What this means for member libraries is that all the following become optional once the 70% threshold is reached:
    • Social distancing and occupancy level decreases
    • Cleaning and disinfecting protocols
    • Daily health screenings
    • Tracking contact information for contact tracing purposes
Nothing will change regarding masks for public and association libraries:
    • Current New York State guidance on masks: “Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks and unvaccinated/unknown individuals need to wear masks.  Unvaccinated/unknown individuals may only remove their mask indoors while socially distanced, seated, and eating/drinking and outdoors while maintaining social distancing of six feet and, if in an event or gathering setting, seated.”
    • Libraries are still able to set their own rules regarding masks and social distancing.
      • Any mask requirements that libraries choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act).
      • From the Governor’s press release: “The Department of Health continues to strongly recommend masks and six feet of social distancing in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 |4:30pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The adjustments to Open Meeting Law have been extended through June 24th.
  • Just a reminder: today is the deadline set by the NYS Division of Library Development for all libraries to once again be open the minimum number of required hours. Any library struggling with this deadline should reach out to Casey or I to discuss a compliance path.
  • The Governor caused a stir last week when he Tweeted that employers are required to provide leave for employees who are suffering from side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. The NYS Department of Labor has issued guidance that clarifies this is not a new leave requirement but a statement regarding New York’s new paid sick leave law which went into effect last year. The Dutchess County Business Notification Network provided this analysis of what is going on:“On Thursday, May 27, the State of New York announced that employers would be required to provide paid time off to employees who get the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, employers are now required to provide paid time off for employees unable to work due to side effects of the vaccine. According to the state, fear of these side effects and the resulting possible loss of pay has been determined to be a factor in vaccine avoidance.The New York State Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that this is not a new leave mandate. The guidance clarifies that any time off required by an employee who suffers the side effects of the vaccine would be paid from the employee’s paid sick leave balance. That is, leave as required under NYS’s new paid sick leave law (Labor Law §196b). This is not an additional COVID sick leave benefit and does not come out of any NYS COVID paid sick leave bank.The guidance states that such an absence would qualify as a “mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition…” as defined in the NYS paid sick leave law. Based on this, one would presume that if an employee has exhausted their employer-provided paid sick leave, then there would be no further obligation on an employer’s part to provide paid time off for this reason. All other provisions of your paid sick leave policy would apply.If you are voluntarily participating in federal FFCRA leave under the American Rescue Plan, leave for the side effects of the vaccine is a qualifying reason for providing emergency paid sick leave and receiving the subsequent tax credits for providing such leave. These federal American Rescue Plan provisions are scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2021.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 |4:34pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. Yesterday, the state updated its order to require children to wear a mask at day care and day camps this summer. The guidance definitely leans towards having kids wear a mask but no longer mandates it.
  2. The adjustments to the Open Meetings Law were extended a few days beyond the last date we saw to June 16th.
    1. As we think about the likelihood of the OML adjustments ending at some point it may be a good time for a refresher on OML for yourselves and your trustees. To that end, we’ve got a member of the staff from the NYS Committee on Open Government coming to do a webinar for us on June 15th at 5:30pm as part of the 2021 Spring MHLS Trustee Education Series. You can register here for that event.

Thursday, May 20, 2021 |11:56am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

On a call this morning with staff from the State Library and system directors from around the state the change in mask guidance was an expectedly hot topic.
  • The State Library is requiring masks for staff and the public, regardless of vaccination status, as per a directive from the state agency which manages the Cultural Education Center (which houses the state library)
    • They confirmed there is no guidance for other types of libraries, nor do they think we will see it.
  • Two of the largest library systems in the state, Queens and Buffalo & Erie County, reported they are currently requiring masks for all staff and the public. At B&EC this was mandated by their county.
  • A majority of systems like ours, cooperative public library systems, reported their members are requiring staff to continue to wear masks. Reports were that the library community was split on the issue of enforcing masks for the non-vaccinated patrons.
    • The trends I noticed:
      • The lighter the blue on this map, meaning the less of the population that was vaccinated the more likely it seemed libraries in that region were requiring masks for all regardless of vaccination status.
      • City libraries/higher population density areas were requiring masks regardless of vaccination status.
      • All who spoke said that if altercations with vaccinated members of the public escalate, they will cease requiring masks for those who are vaccinated.
  • There was consensus that library workers should not be the arbiter of who is vaccinated and who is not.
  • There was consensus that as vaccination rates rise in various areas of the state, those libraries currently requiring masks for all will relax to the status of the other libraries who already allow for patrons who are vaccinated to go maskless if they choose.
So. All informal intel but I thought you might be interested to hear what I heard statewide today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 |3:06pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

NYS has just issued a new document: “Reopening New York: Implementing CDC Guidance” that will be of interest to you. As Casey just exclaimed: “We’ve got a flowchart!”

Casey has confirmed that there has been no update in the NY Forward Reopening Tool Detailed Guidelines for Retail (last update July 2020) and the Detailed Office Guidelines were updated on May 15, 2021, but do not line up with the new CDC guidance.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 |11:44am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

I know that top of mind are the changes coming tomorrow due to the Governor’s announcement yesterday.

To answer a few questions I’ve received in the past 23-ish hours:

  1. Yes, it is permissible to ask an employee about their vaccination status. I encourage you to review the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions page on “What you should know about COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other EEO Laws
    1. Reminder: health information about employees must be kept in a file separate from their personnel file and must be kept confidential.
  2. Yes, you still need to have employees fill out the daily COVID-19 health screenings, regardless of vaccination status.
  3. Yes, social distancing is still required in libraries, unless you have proof that 100% of the people in the space are vaccinated.
    1. Reminder: “Effective May 19, most business capacities—which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy—will be removed. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet.”

Monday, May 17, 2021 |6:18pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor’s press release is now available on this topic.
Please note:
    • It is clear that private employers – such as association libraries – may make their own rules
  • School district public libraries housed in facilities owned by the school district, can likely fall back on the K-12 school ruling
  • Other types of public libraries: at this time, it is not clear what your latitude is.
Please save the date: The Public Library System Directors Organization (PULISDO) is underwriting an Ask the Lawyer session on this topic THIS FRIDAY AT 1:00pm. We hope to have registration details soon.

Monday, May 17, 2021 |12:20pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor just announced that New York State will follow the updated CDC guidelines for those that are fully vaccinated on Wednesday. His one slide on this topic at today’s press conference said the following:
“Per CDC, immunocompromised and unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and social distance. Consistent with CDC, masks still required on public transportation, in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, health care facilities. Individual private venues may still impose additional requirements.”
We have no further details other than what you see above. We will continue to advocate for clarity from the state for both association and public libraries. We understand the guidance will be posted on the NYS Department of Health web site soon.
Our initial interpretation, given that libraries serve a large number of families in the region with young children unable to access the vaccine at this time, would put libraries in the same boat as schools, but of course we have nothing at this time that explicitly says that.
Just a reminder, you’ve got another day or so to submit questions for “The Library Lawyers” event coming up on May 26th at 2:00pm. No doubt this will be a hot topic at this event!

Wednesday, May 13, 2021 |3:37pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As luck would have it (ha ha) the CDC made an announcement pretty much while Casey and I were conducting the COVID-19 Briefing for Trustees today that no doubt is confusing to folks. For the record, as we understand things at 3:28pm on Thursday, May 13, 2021:
  1. The CDC announced updates to interim health guidelines for fully vaccinated people:
    1. “…fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
    2. …fully vaccinated people can refrain from testing following a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter”
  2. New York State guidance still requires a mask regardless of vaccination status. Could we soon see state guidance updated to reflect the CDC guidelines, yes. Will we have library workers and patrons that are totally confused, also yes. The consumer-facing advice from the CDC does note the state guidance takes precedence:
  3. As anticipated, a hot topic during the trustee briefing this afternoon was the vaccination status of library workers and the public.
    1. We shared the OSHA guidance for library workers: The most effective COVID-19 prevention programs engage workers and their representatives in the program’s development and implementation at every step, and include the following elements…Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not: Workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing a face covering and remaining physically distant, because at this time, there is not evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person. The CDC explains that experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
    2. We reminded trustees that libraries are for everyone. Regardless of vaccination status.
As always, we’ll continue to follow developments on this front and update you with what we learn.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 |4:33pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The Open Meeting Law adjustments have been extended until June 9, 2021 as per Executive Order 202.107.
  • Reminder: any library director that feels they cannot meet the June 1 deadline to be open as per minimum standards dictate for open hours will need to reach out to myself or Casey to work on a compliance plan.
    • For now, “open” is defined as in-person services at your facility including curbside/lobby services.
    • A public restroom should be made available to patrons whenever possible.
    • Telephone/email service only does not count towards the number of open hours.
    • If the State Library is going to change their definition to no longer allow curbside/lobby services to count they will give MHLS two months’ notice.
  • New York Forward – latest guidance
    • Office
      • Current: 50% of certificate of occupancy
      • May 15: 75%
    • Retail
      • Current: 50% of certificate of occupancy
      • May 19: occupancy level lifted and replaced with “space available to maintain six feet of social distancing”
    • Indoor and Outdoor Arts & Entertainment
      • May 10: OUTDOOR social gathering limit will increase from 200 to 500 people
      • May 19: INDOOR social gathering limit will increase from 100 to 250 people

Monday, May 10, 2021 |4:03pm

Casey Conlin, MHLS Library Sustainability Coordinator

Governor Cuomo recently signed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act) into law, which imposes obligations on private employers including association libraries to provide and maintain a safe workplace in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and for future airborne infectious disease outbreaks.

  • The HERO Act amends New York Labor Law by adding two new sections:
    • The first section is applicable to all covered employers, and requires the development and adoption of an airborne infectious disease prevention policy.
    • The second section, applicable only to private employers with at least 10 employees, permits the creation of workplace safety committees.
  • Under the HERO Act, the New York State Departments of Labor and Health have been directed to create model standards for enforceable health and safety plans to prevent airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. MHLS will continue to provide updates on the HERO Act and relevant resources and requirements created as a result of the legislation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2021 |9:44am

Casey Conlin, MHLS Library Sustainability Coordinator

The governor recently announced a significant easing of Covid restrictions on businesses, gatherings and venues which will begin May 19.
  • Business occupancy capacity limits previously calculated as a percentage of maximum occupancy for a given space will be replaced with calculations for space available to maintain six feet of social distancing. The governor has additionally said that the social distancing requirement would not be necessary for events and locations where all attendees are able to prove they have been either vaccinated or recently had a negative Covid test.
  • The outdoor social gathering limit will increase to 500 on May 10 and indoor social gathering limit will increase to 250 according to the restriction for social distancing or proof of vaccination outlined above.
  • While most industry capacity restrictions will be lifted, NYS reports industry-specific requirements will remain in effect for a longer period of time, including notification of state or local health authorities of positive Covid cases, health screening, contact information for tracing, enhanced air handling and building system standards, hand hygiene, and cleaning protocols.
MHLS will continue to monitor information from the NYS on these issues and relevant updates to guidelines.

Friday, April 30, 2021 |12:24pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • This morning the NYS Division of Library Development hosted a webinar to answer questions about their announcement that they expect all libraries to meet the minimum standard for open hours starting June 1. They provided some clarifying information I wanted to share with you:
    • For the June 1 deadline:
      • For now, “open” is defined as in-person services at your facility including curbside/lobby services.
      • A public restroom should be made available to patrons whenever possible.
      • Telephone/email service only does not count towards the number of open hours.
      • If you are significantly challenged to meet the June 1 deadline you will need to reach out to MHLS to discuss a plan.
      • If the State Library is going to change their definition to no longer allow curbside/lobby services to count they will give MHLS two months’ notice.
    • For the purposes of the 2021 Annual Report to the State which you will fill out in the first quarter of next year:
      • The federal definition of open hours WILL NOT include curbside/lobby services, libraries will need to have their facilities fully open for the required number of hours.
  • Quarantining of Library Materials: On today’s webinar, the State Librarian, Lauren Moore, said she feels the new CDC guidance on cleaning and disinfecting clearly means the quarantining of library materials is unnecessary.
  • Occupancy Levels: Given that the NY Forward guidance for libraries of all types mentioned both retail and office classification I just wanted to confirm for you where the occupancy levels for those two categories are today:
    • Retail: 50% occupancy
    • Office: 50% occupancy moving to 75% on May 15

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 |2:57pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 |8:56am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Yesterday the Governor announced changes in occupancy levels for a variety of venues, including office space. The occupancy space reductions have been lessened from 50% to 75% starting May 15th.
  • The adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to allow for online meetings have been extended until May 19th, 2021 by Executive Order 202.102. There were no alterations to the provisions that allow for online open meetings, meetings still need to be accessible to the public, recorded and transcribed.

Also, we are expecting a CDC announcement today regarding mask requirements, likely on the necessity of wearing them when outdoors. We’ll let you know when we see any news on that front.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 |1:14 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • In case you missed it, Executive Order 202.101 has extended the adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to May 6, 2021.
  • The Governor announced yesterday that starting on April 26: “Low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment—including museums, aquariums, zoos and botanical gardens—will increase to 50 percent capacity”
  • All New Yorkers age 16 and older are now eligible for the vaccine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 |3:56 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. If your library is currently not meeting the minimum standard for open hours the clock is now ticking, it sounds like June 1 will be the cut off for DLD “looking the other way” on that issue. After that, libraries will be held accountable to meet that standard.
  2. The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project is hosing a webinar this Thursday to explore the topic of COVID-19 vaccines and how they impact the reopening and ongoing operations plans for organizations. The session will provide information on vaccine education, including resources available to help address vaccine misinformation in the community. For more information and to register visit this site.
  3. The American Library Association (ALA) announced it will make available $1.25M in emergency relief grants to libraries that have experienced substantial economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ALA COVID Library Relief Fund invites public, school, academic, and tribal libraries across the United States and US Territories to apply for grants of $30,000 to $50,000. These funds are intended to bolster library operations and services including broadening technology access, developing collections, providing digital instruction, staffing, and expanding outreach, as well as maintaining and amplifying existing service strategies or adding new ones to extend impact through the end of 2021. Grant applications are accepted online through May 20, 2021 via the ALA website

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 |9:07 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) downgraded the cleaning and disinfecting protocols for facilities in acknowledgement that transmission through “fomite” surfaces is low, compared to direct contact, droplet or airborne transmission. During a briefing yesterday the CDC director noted there is “little scientific support” for routine disinfectant use to prevent surface contact infection.

The new guidance is posted here:

The attestations you all signed and submitted to NYS back when we re-opened last year both refer generically to the cleaning/disinfecting guidance from the CDC and provide specific guidance from the NYS Department of Heath which does create a bit of “grey area” but given that all of the NYS-specific links in that document to the NYS Department of Health are currently down, my guess is they are in the midst of updating their guidance to align with the CDCs.

Monday, March 29, 2021 |1:24 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor today announced expanded eligibility for vaccinations:

Beginning tomorrow at 8am, all New Yorkers age 30+ will be eligible to schedule and receive the vaccines.

Starting Tuesday, April 6 at 8am, all New Yorkers age 16+ will be eligible to schedule and receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

Thursday, March 25, 2021 |9:47 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • For the second month in a row we are seeing some confusion over the dates of the Open Meetings Law adjustments made through an executive order. As reported earlier this week, Executive Order 202.97 extended the adjustments to April 16th. The very next order, 202.98 has extended it a whopping four days more to: April 20th. I know this difference matters to some of you so wanted to clarify that for you.
  • Yesterday the Governor announced a new resource to prepare for the next public health emergency, from the descriptions provided so far, this seems like a good professional development opportunity for library leaders: “Enroll to become an NYS Citizen Public Health Leader. To continue the fight against COVID and prepare for the next public health emergency, the State announced the launch of a free, online Citizen Public Health Training course for New Yorkers. This innovative course, delivered by the New York State Department of Health in partnership with Cornell University and supported by the State University of New York, will prepare and equip New Yorkers to become NYS Citizen Public Health Leaders and build an informed network of community health leaders across the state. Enroll today.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 |11:16 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to allow for online meetings have been extended until April 16, 2021 by Executive Order 202.97. There were no alterations to the provisions that allow for online open meetings, meetings still need to be accessible to the public, recorded and transcribed.

Monday, March 22, 2021 |10:21 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Vaccination-Related Updates: 
    • A new law signed by Governor Cuomo on March 12, 2021 amends New York’s Labor Law and entitles employees up to four hours of paid leave per COVID-19 vaccine injection.  The law is effective immediately, and the law’s leave entitlement is set to expire on December 31, 2022. All New York employers are now required to provide a paid leave of absence to employees for “a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection,” to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine.  For employees receiving the authorized Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations, each of which requires two consecutive doses weeks apart, the new leave law requires employers to grant up to eight hours of total leave for vaccination (up to four hours on two different occasions).  See this article for more info.
    • As of Sunday, pharmacies are now permitted to vaccinate New Yorkers with comorbidities, in addition to those over the age of 60 and teachers.
  • Just a reminder that Health Emergency Plans are now required for all public libraries (municipal, special district, and school district public libraries) and strongly recommended for association libraries. Examples have been shared and are available here for your reference. These do not have to be sent to an agency of NYS but do need to be accessible to your employees through your library’s personnel handbook and on your library’s web site for, at least, employees but the law also hints that the DOL could look for it if they are investigating a complaint.

Thursday, March 11, 2021 |9:54 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Vaccine Access Tip: From reports of our peers who have already been vaccinated in other industries (i.e. school librarians) you will want to let your staff know that in addition to their driver’s license or other form of valid ID, you will want to have a paystub and a letter from you, their employer, confirming their role as a public library worker when they go for their appointment. The letter does not have to be elaborate. the Society for Human Resource Managers suggests a memo format on your letterhead addressed “To whom it may concern.” Suggested text below as a place for you to start:
    • [Employee Name] is employed by the [Library Name], which has been classified as an agency with workers eligible for vaccination by NYS as of March 17th, 2021. Please direct any questions to [director name] at [contact phone number]
  • On April 2, New York State is upgrading the rules for facility occupancy and indoor/outdoor event capacity for “Event, Arts, and Entertainment Venues.” This capacity benchmark has been one libraries have referred to in the past to make local decisions so we wanted to draw your attention to it: “Reopening at 33% capacity, up to 100 people indoor, 200 people outdoor… Social distancing and face coverings required by all attendees.”

  • American Rescue Plan Act and what it means for libraries: From Carrie Russell – Senior Program Director, Public Policy & Advocacy and Copyright Specialist at the American Library Association (ALA): “The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) that just passed the House provides $200 million in funding for IMLS, with $178 million for LSTA, and billions more in library-eligible programs. This is the single largest increase in funding for the IMLS in the agency’s 25-year history

    In addition, ARPA establishes a $7.172 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund through the FCC’s E-rate program, which will reimburse eligible libraries for 100% of the costs of equipment necessary to provide off-campus connectivity to patrons, including Wi-Fi hotspots, routers, laptops, and more. The FCC will develop the final rules for the new program within 60 days of passage, and ALA will provide input during the rulemaking process.” Stay tuned for more info!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 |12:01 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Good news!!! Does it say library workers specifically? No. But I think public facing library workers fit nicely into the newly announced categories that will be eligible starting March 17th:

  • Tomorrow: 60+, starting at 8:00am. Pharmacies will be limited to teachers and those 60+.
  • Starting on March 17th:
    • Nonprofit, public facing
    • Public employees, public facing
    • Essential workers, public facing
    • Building workers, public facing

Be WELL!!!

Monday, March 8, 2021 |10:25 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The petition bill (S4430/A5456) was signed by the Governor yesterday. It is now Chapter 70 of 2021 and is effective immediately.
  • We have learned that Onondaga County has authorized the vaccination for all front-line public library workers, beyond just those who are also county workers, including association and school/special district public library workers. Outreach to various county leaders in our region with this news has resulted in confusion, as they are still insisting that without authorization at the state level they cannot, on their own, add public library workers.
    • We have heard through the grapevine that Senator Serino and Assemblymembers Barrett and Jacobson have been vocal with the Governor’s staff during calls held three times a week with the Governor’s staff on the topic of vaccines for public library workers.
    • We, along with the New York Library Association, the Public Library Directors Organization of New York State, and the MHLS Directors Association, will continue to work to advocate for public library workers. Last week, NYLA sent a letter to the Governor and NYS Department of Health with 2,883 signatures.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 |3:01 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

I am very pleased to report that “the Petition Bill”(A5456) has passed the NYS Assembly (149/0). It has now passed in both houses and will be delivered to the Governor. Since the Legislature is in session, the Governor will have 10 days (excluding Sundays) to sign or veto the bill. If he does not sign the bill within this period, it automatically becomes law.

Thanks to all who have helped to advocate for this bill.

Just a refresher: this bill helps both association/municipal public libraries seeking to get on the ballot in November for a 414/municipal ballot vote by reducing the number of signatures they need from 10% of the number of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election to 25 (yes, you read that right!) and helps those citizens who would like to run for their school district public library board by reducing the number of signatures from 2% of the number of voters who voted on the library’s budget last year (since many school district libraries went with their school districts due to the pandemic this number greatly ballooned for them) to 25 as well. This bill would be in play for 2021 only if signed into law.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 1, 2021 |12:03 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Just a note that the Open Meetings Law adjustments are authorized until March 24th, not the 23rd which I had originally reported.
  • Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order that creates the eligibility criteria and other important rules for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This is a federal initiative to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.
    • The agency also released a fact sheet that can be found here:

    • A household is eligible if one member of the household:
      • Qualifies for the Lifeline program.
      • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year.
      • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
      • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
      • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The FCC has not established a start date for consumer enrollment. Please check their website,, regularly for the latest information.  I’m sure many, if not all of you, have households in your community that could benefit from this new initiative.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 |11:42 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Just a quick note to let you know the adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to allow for online meetings have been extended to March 23, 2021 by executive order. There were no alterations to the provisions that allow for online open meetings, meetings still need to be accessible to the public, recorded and transcribed.

Thursday, February 11, 2021 |10:42 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • New state legislation that went into effect on January 30th authorizes municipalities to defer certain property taxes “during a declared state disaster emergency” for up to 120 days or provides for installment payments thereafter. This is to be determined municipality-by-municipality so each library that receives an appropriation of town funds, funds allocated due to a municipal ballot vote (414 funds) and special district public libraries will need to be aware that their municipality may make use of this mechanism which does open a door for a municipality to slow down payment to the library. While NYS Education Law does require the municipality to turn over voter-directed funding to a library upon written request of the library board (414 and special district), libraries will want to be sensitive to the pandemic-driven nature of residents’ financial situation.
  • The bill to reduce the number of signatures needed on 414 and trustee nominating petitions for school district public libraries has passed the Senate and has been introduced in the Assembly, it is moving fast which is a good sign!
  • While not COVID specific, there is a law I’d like to bring to your attention to that may have gotten lost in the chaos of the past year, the Single-Use Restroom Signage Law: By March 23, 2021 New York State Law requires that all single occupancy public restrooms be designated “…as gender neutral for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use…Such gender neutral bathroom facilities shall be clearly designated by the posting of such on or near the entry door of each facility.” Existing single-occupancy bathrooms must remove any signage designating the bathroom as “male” or “female” and replace it with signage indicating it is open to people of all genders.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 |3:12 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Vaccine Updates and a Reminder:
    • NYLA has finally issued an online advocacy form to expedite calls to add library workers to phase 1b of the vaccination schedule – please promote this widely in your circles of influence!
    • New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions can make appointments at state-run mass vaccination sites beginning February 14
    • Please help spread the word about vaccine eligibility to those in your community who are not digitally literate. They are greatly disenfranchised through the processes in place and need advocates to help them connect with trusted information and vaccine appointment opportunities.
  • In case you missed it: With the passage of Executive Order 202.92, the adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to allow for online meetings have been extended to February 26th, 2021. There were no alterations to the provisions that allow for online open meetings, meetings still need to be accessible to the public, recorded and transcribed.
  • Senate Bill 4430 has been introduced and moved through its first committee hurdle today, with a companion Assembly bill to follow shortly. This bill would amend NYS Education Law to reduce the number of petition signatures required in 2021 for 414 votes and school district public library trustee nominations to 25. Legislators are aware of the ticking clock on both of these issues and have a goal to expedite this in time for May school district votes. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 22, 2021 |11:11 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Minimum Weekly Hours for 2020: The Division of Library Development has let us know they “...will NOT be enforcing the hours open minimum standard for the calendar year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will NOT be requesting variances for those member libraries who did not meet the standard.  When reporting 2020 minimum open hours on the Annual report, member libraries should answer NO, that they were not in compliance and then indicate in the NOTES field that it was due to “COVID.”  This will be included in the 2020 Annual Report Instructions.” As you saw earlier today in the message from Casey, the annual report software is not yet authorized for member use. Even if you see that the software is open please DO NOT log-in until you hear from Casey otherwise you risk the chance of losing anything you enter before you get the green light from him.
  • Library Workers & Vaccine Access: If this in an issue close to your heart, like it is to mine, my advice to you is to reach out to your state legislators to express the need for the NYS Department of Health to expand their definition of “education workers” in Phase 1b of the vaccination schedule to include public library workers as the CDC recommended. You may get the response: “…well, there’s not even enough vaccines to go around right now so what’s the rush…” my answer has been that of course we know that there is a scarcity at the moment, however, that does not change the fact that library workers deserve to be on that list and were recognized by the CDC as “workers at greatest risk for exposure to infectious diseases.”
    • For those of you in the 42nd, 46th, and 51st Senate Districts please use this opportunity to also introduce yourselves to your new Senators and invite them to visit your libraries, they are each new in their positions and we will want to work to educate them about the wonderful network of libraries in their district.
  • Updated Guidance on use of COVID-19 Sick Leave from the NYS Department of Labor
    • 1. “An employee who returns to work following a period of mandatory quarantine or isolation does not need to be tested before returning to work, except for nursing home staff. However, an employee who subsequently receives a positive diagnostic test result for COVID- 19 must not report to work. The employee shall be deemed to be subject to a mandatory order of isolation from the Department of Health and shall be entitled to sick leave as required by New York’s COVID-19 sick leave law, whether or not the employee already has received sick leave as required by the law for the first period of quarantine or isolation. However, the employee must submit documentation from a licensed medical provider or testing facility attesting that the employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee does not need to submit documentation of a positive result if the employee’s employer gave the employee the test for COVID-19 that showed the positive result.”
    • 2. “An employee who is subject to an order of quarantine or isolation but continues to test positive for COVID-19 after the end of such quarantine or isolation period must not report to work. Please note that an employee is not recommended to be tested to discontinue isolation or quarantine. The employee shall be deemed to be subject to a second mandatory order of isolation from the Department of Health and shall be entitled to sick leave as required by New York’s COVID-19 sick leave law for the second period of isolation. However, the employee must submit documentation from a licensed medical provider or testing facility attesting that the employee has received a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 after completing the initial period of isolation. The employee does not need to submit documentation of a positive result if the employee’s employer gave the employee the test for COVID-19 that showed the positive result.”
    • 3. “If an employer mandates that an employee who is not otherwise subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation to remain out of work due to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19, regardless of whether such exposure or potential exposure was in the workplace, the employer shall continue to pay the employee at the employee’s regular rate of pay until such time as the employer permits the employee to return to work or the employee becomes subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation, at which time the employee shall receive sick leave as required by New York’s COVID-19 sick leave law, in accordance with this guidance, for the period of time the employee is subject to such mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.”
    • 4. “In no event shall an employee qualify for sick leave under New York’s COVID-19 sick leave law for more than three orders of quarantine or isolation. The second and third orders must be based on a positive COVID-19 test in accordance with paragraphs 1 and 2.”

Friday, January 15, 2021 |4:24 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The Dutchess Business Information Network has provided a “Return to Work” attestation form to use for both employees who have tested positive, and those who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive. It is encouraged that employers have employees who fall into either of these categories fill out this form prior to their return to work.
  • In vaccine news,  I’ve been reaching out* to regional control room representatives and area state legislators and we now have multiple advocates reaching out to a key staff person on the Governor’s staff to see if we can get library workers specifically identified in the state’s definition of “education workers.” No result to report yet but a little progress this week.

Monday, January 11, 2021 |2:43 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

From the volume of emails and phone calls I’ve been getting I think I can safely say that many of you are anxious about where library staff fall in the state’s vaccination schedule. As noted in my message on Friday, the state’s plan does not specifically name librarians/library staff in any phase.
“Education workers” are included in Phase 1b of New York’s vaccination plan which goes into effect today. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did name librarians specifically in their description of “education workers” as they worked through their process to come up with their recommendations over the summer. However, the extent of the New York language is “Teachers and education workers.”
I learned over the weekend that the Council of the New York Library Association has called upon the NYS Department of Health “to consider front-line library workers, who provide critical access to information and technology for New Yorkers, in the same eligibility class as essential retail workers.”
I provide this information to you with the acknowledgement that it is not as clear as you would prefer but it is the best information we have at this time.
We will certainly continue to advocate for clarity for library workers.
Be well, hang in there, the vaccines are coming.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 |4:52 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • With the passage of Executive Order 202.87, the adjustments to NYS Open Meetings Law to allow for online meetings have been extended to January 29th, 2021. There were no alterations to the provisions that allow for online open meetings, meetings still need to be accessible to the public, recorded and transcribed.
  • On December 26, 2020, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) updated its mandatory quarantine requirements (the Quarantine Advisory) for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not develop symptoms. Previously, asymptomatic individuals who had been exposed to COVID-19 had to quarantine for 14 days. Now, such individuals must quarantine for 10 days. The Quarantine Advisory also applies to individuals who traveled to a non-border state or country.
  • The New York State Library has requested that all public library systems begin monthly reporting of member libraries’ “current regularly scheduled weekly hours of in-person services (including lobby and curbside).”
    • Here’s why:
      “The New York State Library and PLS/PULISDO have established a Reopening Committee and will work together to encourage more libraries to re-open and determine what can be done to eliminate re-opening barriers during the fluid COVID-19 pandemic especially as it relates to the minimum hours open standard.  The Committee will review and establish public library/central library minimum open hours during the pandemic and develop a waiver policy and procedure that can be implemented quickly to meet the constantly changing conditions during the pandemic. The committee will function to help library systems and member libraries get the data they need to make decisions about reopening.  Reopening status is very important to build a case for long-term sustainability.  The reopening survey will serve to provide a snapshot of reopening status and will keep the public library systems and State Library informed on library reopening progress. ”
    • Here’s how we’ll approach this: The turnaround time they have provided us with for the January deadline is too short to issue a new survey and expect all directors – many of whom are out on vacation this week – to respond in time, therefore we will pull this information from your web sites. After that, we will ask you to provide this information monthly through a new MHLS-issued status update form that will be provided later this month. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding with this data gathering exercise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 |10:50 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. FFCRA to Expire: As you likely know, a new federal stimulus package has now not only been passed by the legislature, but has been signed into law by the president. There was no extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) through this bill. Therefore, at this time, the FFCRA is set to expire on December 31st. For those of you keeping score at home, this was the bill that required paid leave for state-mandated quarantines. For library administrators, this most frequently intersected with the New York State travel advisory and staff leave, as this type of  state mandated quarantine is not covered by the New York Paid Family Leave for COVID-19  but was covered by FFCRA.
  2. Re: Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols
    1. Yes, I saw the NPR article, but thank you to all who sent it to me! While there has been no change to the New York State Department of Health’s guidance on cleaning and disinfecting protocols for your facility (their reopening guidance – which you all adopted through your affirmations to the state earlier this year – still points to the DOH and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance) local decisions you may have made about frequency and tactics can always be revisited.
    2. Quarantining of library materials: Just a reminder that there is no mandate at the system, state, or federal level to quarantine or wipe down library materials. A growing number of libraries have abandoned this practice, as discussed when the Oregon advisory came out. We do recommend that you continue to focus energy on hand hygiene for staff. You are not alone in the confusion around this issue! Check out this recent article about how Canada’s libraries are approaching this, they are also seeing the reduction or abandonment of quarantine of library materials as a trend.
  3. Service Level Changes:
    1. There are currently no cluster action initiative zones in the Mid-Hudson Library System’s service area. You may find this confusing as you are seeing infection rates for any given county above the initially defined triggers for zone creation and escalation. This is because the metrics to create and escalate zones have been adjusted to combine the rate and ranking of hospital admissions with infection rates to get a more accurate sense of the risk of overwhelming the health care system in a particular area.
    2. If you are faced with a hyper-local reason for changing your service level, or a cluster action zone emerges to influence your service level, please remember to let MHLS know through this form

Monday, December 21, 2020 |5:16 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The recent spike in infections has brought COVID “closer to home,” with multiple libraries reporting positive cases among staff or family members of staff. Just a reminder that you should work to keep the health information of employees confidential. Directors of most of our member libraries will find this next to impossible as deductive reasoning makes the identity of a staff person who has tested positive quite obvious. The CDC notes that people who tested positive for COVID-19, have recovered from being sick with COVID-19, or were released from COVID-19 quarantine may experience stigma. A few recommendations from the CDC:
    • Maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of those seeking healthcare and those who may be part of any contact investigation.
    • Quickly communicating the risk, or lack of risk, from contact with products, people, and places.
    • Correcting negative language that can cause stigma by sharing accurate information about how the virus spreads.
    • Speaking out against negative behaviors and statements, including those on social media.
    • Making sure that images used in communications show diverse communities and do not reinforce stereotypes.
    • Using media channels, including news media and social media, to speak out against stereotyping groups of people who experience stigma because of COVID-19.
    • Thanking healthcare workers, responders, and others working on the front lines.
    • Suggesting virtual resources for mental health or other social support services for people who have experienced stigma or discrimination.
  • Association Libraries: With the approval of a new federal stimulus bill yesterday the Paycheck Protection Program will have a new injection of funding. A number of association libraires were eligible for this the first time around so may want to tune in for information related to this program’s next round. It looks like some of the guidelines may have been adjusted so it may not be a slam dunk but it is certainly something to learn more about. Forbes offered a good summary of the new rules recently and I’m sure we’ll see more information come out about this shortly.
  • Just a reminder to please update your library’s opening status with MHLS by using this form:

Thursday, December 3, 2020 |2:54 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has extended the COVID-19 era adjustments to the NYS Open Meetings law until January 1, 2021 via Executive Order 202.79.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 |1:41 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Here is the info from today’s Director Briefing:

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 |8:54 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Two items for you this morning:
  1. I have heard from many directors over the past week with rising concerns about the rising infection rates in our state. While much may feel uncertain at this time, I want to remind you that you have done an excellent job of keeping your staff and communities safe thus far this year and I have confidence in you to continue to make good choices. You have thought through policy issues, you have studied the guidance, you are doing your best with the information you have in hand. This Thanksgiving I hope you know that I and many of your staff, trustees and patrons will be giving thanks to you, their library’s leadership, for the good work you have done over the past eight months to keep people safe while continuing to serve the community as best you can. That is no small thing.
  2. The New York State Department of Health has recently issued two documents of interest to libraries.
Holiday Advisory for Retailers During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: This advisory serves as a reminder that library leaders are responsible for following State-issued executive orders, regulations, and guidance applicable to “retail activities,” which is the classification libraries fall under. Libraries are reminded to:
  • Limit capacity to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for the library 
  • Maintain appropriate social distancing of six feet among individuals 
  • Ensure that acceptable face coverings are worn 
  • Provide hand hygiene stations 
  • Regularly clean and disinfect high traffic areas, frequently touched surfaces, and shared equipment 
  • Post signage informing patrons of health precautions and distance markers indicating six-foot spaces in areas where lines form or people congregate 
  • Reduce touch points on collections/equipment 
  • Encourage the use of touchless payment or pay ahead options 
  • Consider “click and collect” (i.e. in-library pick up and curbside) or home delivery options to reduce the number of patrons in the library at any given time. The bulleted list above is my “translation” if you will of the full text of the advisory which you can read here.

Thank you to the member library directors who alerted us to these two DOH documents, it takes a village!

Monday, November 23, 2020 |11:58 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As we seem to be approaching a time frame in which cluster actions may be taken in our region sooner rather than later, we would like to assure you that MHLS staff has been thinking through what this will mean for MHLS Delivery Services and holds.
Our goal is to keep delivery and holds going for as long as is reasonable*.
Our ability to do so will hinge on member library directors who find themselves in Red Zones taking responsibility to provide timely reports to us about whether or not your library plans to continue the circulation of items. Some directors are reporting they will move to curbside service in an orange zone, others report they will only do so if they are in a red zone, and others still report they will completely shut down operations in a red zone. To be clear – this is a local decision (need a refresher on this? check out the post to the MHLS Notices list from November 18). However, these decisions may have a cumulative, system-wide impact.

1) Libraries in a Red Zone must contact MHLS to report if they are either: 

    • Continuing to offer curbside service, in which case delivery will continue uninterrupted to their facility*; or
  • Suspending curbside service, in which case delivery and paging for their location will be suspended.Please use this “Library Status Form” to report a change in service level.
2) If you shut down operations completely, please review the Sierra instructions for this move which now include the requirement that you take other libraries’ items out of quarantine and move them back into circulation before closing down.
3) We will host a Directors Briefing on Wednesday, December 2 at 1:00pm to review this with you.
*While we do not have a crystal ball and therefore cannot predict the number or size of cluster action zones that could appear in our region there certainly may be tipping points in the future on a specific delivery route or even system-wide if we see a majority of libraries, in either construct, cease circulation activities. We will once again coordinate with our delivery vendor to decide how best to handle this but again, if we do not have good data from you this can cause problems for system operations as well as needless expense for MHLS.


  1. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will end on December 31, 2020. There is no indication currently as to whether this program will be extended or if there will be a program to take its place.
  2. The New York Paid Family Leave for COVID-19 provides emergency benefits to employees subject to mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 |3:30 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. With increasing infection rates across the state, particularly in the Mid-Hudson region, we have prepared instructions for “Service Level Changes” now offered on the MHLS Knowledge Base. These instructions should help libraries that may find themselves in a catchment area of a Cluster Action Initiative.
  2. Outreach efforts to members of the regional control rooms have confirmed our understanding that there will be no specific guidance for libraries at this time. That being said, combining the information from those conversations with interview data from eight other library systems within which Cluster Action Initiatives were implemented throughout the state, it would indicate that it is expected libraries will follow the directives as best we can in the provided information on the state’s Cluster Action Initiative web page. A couple of notes, from me, on this:
    1. Regional control room officials regularly referred us to the “Businesses” line in the table with *one caveat:
      1. Yellow: all libraries’ facilities remain open
      2. Orange: all libraries’ facilities remain open
      3. Red: *all association library facilities closed to the public; public libraries (municipal public libraries, school district public libraries, and special district public libraries) could keep their facilities open if they so choose as they would be defined as “essential” due to the precedent set by previous Executive Orders. Does this mean association libraries are less important than public libraries? No, but it is a legal line that has been drawn that you should be aware of.
    2. *All I spoke to agreed that curbside would be allowed in a red zone as it is for restaurants but struggled to align their understanding of how the Governor’s previous executive orders allowing for different staffing levels for public vs. association libraires comes into play at that point. In the face of this lack of clarity, my recommendation to you is to coordinate with other libraries in an impacted zone to find consistency.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 |3:30 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

With infection rates on the rise in upstate New York and yesterday’s blanket cluster zones initiated for three counties issued, I thought you might appreciate the attached resources that can both help you prepare should your library be included in a Cluster Action Initiative zone and comply with the new law that mandates public libraries to have a Pandemic Response Plan/Public Health Emergency Plan in place by April 2021. As noted in a previous post, association libraries are also strongly recommended to have this plan in place, particularly given the opinion received by NYLA from the Executive’s office.
The library specific template is provided courtesy of our friends at the Pioneer Library System.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 |10:11 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Executive Order 202.72 has extended the adjustments to Open Meetings Law to December 3rd, 2020.

Monday, November 2, 2020 |3:37 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has announced new travel advisory guidelines for travelers to “test out” of the 14-day quarantie requirement. This may impact your staff who may be planning to travel out of state so I wanted to be sure you were aware of the changes. If an individual is unable or unwilling to follow what you see below, they would be subject to the standing advisory of a 14-day quarantine.

“The new protocol is effective Wednesday, November 4For any traveler to New York State from out of state, exempting the contiguous states, the new guidelines for travelers to test-out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine are below:

  • For travelers who were in another state for more than 24 hours:
    • Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state.
    • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
    • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests comes back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.
  • For travelers who were in another state for less than 24 hours:

    • The traveler does not need a test prior to their departure from the other state, and does not need to quarantine upon arrival in New York State.
    • However, the traveler must fill out our traveler form upon entry into New York State, and take a COVID diagnostic test 4 days after their arrival in New York.

Local health departments will validate tests, if necessary, and if a test comes back positive, will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing. The local health department must make contact with the state the traveler came from, to ensure contact tracing proceeds there as well. All travelers must continue to fill out our traveler form upon arrival into New York State to contribute to New York State’s robust contact tracing program.


The travel guidelines require all New Yorkers, as well as those visiting from out of state, to take personal responsibility for compliance in the best interest of public health and safety.”

For more information:

Monday, October 26, 2020 |3:55 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance related to the definition of “close contact” and the spread of COVID-19, if you have used this definition in any of your policies you’ll want to note this update.
  • Pandemic Response Plans: While the new law does not cover association libraries, the New York Library Association has received an opinion from the Governor’s office that association libraries, as well as public libraries, should have the newly required Pandemic Response Plan in place as well.  NYLA staff has created a checklist with definitions and requirements to add to the scant resources available on this topic at this time that we shared after the last MHLS Director Briefing.
  • In speaking with system and library directors in areas that are currently impacted by the NYS Cluster Action Initiative it seems that the Regional Control Rooms are once again in play in making decisions when there are gaps left in the NYS Forward Reopening process. I will be reaching out to each county chair to work together once again to get libraries on their radar to hopefully head off any confusion that may be triggered should we see a cluster emerge in our region.
  • FYI – the REALM Project was mentioned in a recent WIRED magazine article about surface transmission and COVID-19:

Thursday, October 8, 2020 |8:02 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The Oregon State Library reached out to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to help put the REALM Project results into context for libraries in their state. Staff reviewing the information included Deputy State Epidemiologist Ali Hamade, PhD, DABT; Public Health Physician Claire Poche, PhD; Public Health Physician Ann Thomas, PhD; and other analysts from the Oregon Health Authority. They came to the conclusion that “an overnight quarantine period of materials is likely sufficient and 24 hours is even more precautionary. This would be ideally combined with advice to library workers to wash hands with soap and water regularly especially if they are prone to touching their faces.” The official notice of their conclusion to this message for your reference is here.
  • Executive Order 202.68:
    • Allows for a civil penalty of up to $15,000 for any individual who “encourages, promotes or organizes a non-essential gathering as set forth in Department of Health regulation.” A non-essential gathering is defined as a gathering of more than 50 people.
    • Authorized local governments to assess a civil penalty for violations of Executive Orders issued pursuant to Section 29-A of the Executive Law, or any regulations of the NYS Department of Health, that impose requirements pertaining to maintaining social distance and wearing of face coverings, for the duration of the COVID emergency. These penalties could be as high as $1,000 per violation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 |8:02 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

This is purely an informational update, no action is required by you at this time.
As you may have seen yesterday, the Governor announced a “Crush the Cluster” initiative yesterday. This is a new approach, different from the regional approach to “flatten the curve,” shrinks the impacted areas down by zip code to address hot spots that have cropped up. The first clusters to be addressed are not in our region but in Brooklyn, Queens, and Broome, Orange and Rockland counties. So, not too far from us.
They have put new rules into effect for a minimum of 14 days in the impacted areas. The initiative divides clusters and the areas around them into three categories “with successively higher restrictions within each one.”

Red Zone — Cluster Itself

    • Houses of Worship: 25 percent capacity, 10 people maximum
    • Mass Gatherings: Prohibited
    • Businesses: Only essential businesses open
    • Dining: Takeout only
    • Schools: Closed, remote only

Orange Zone — Warning Zone

    • Houses of Worship: 33 percent capacity, 25 people maximum
    • Mass Gatherings: 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
    • Businesses: Closing high-risk non-essential businesses, such as gyms and personal care
    • Dining: Outdoor dining only, 4 person maximum per table
    • Schools: Closed, remote only

Yellow Zone — Precautionary Zone

    • Houses of Worship: 50 percent capacity
    • Mass Gatherings: 25 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
    • Businesses: Open
    • Dining: Indoor and outdoor dining, 4 person maximum per table
    • Schools: Open with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings. The New York State Department of Health will establish a percentage of teachers and students/staff who need to be tested by Friday.

This has already restarted the advocacy work needed to ensure clarity and common sense about where public and association libraries fall within this construct and we are working with our peers statewide in this work. The NY Forward Business Re-open Lookup Tool is not something any of us have missed checking but will likely come into play again here soon. At this time, I see no alterations to the entry for libraries in the cluster areas so it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

No action needed on your part, just a briefing here to give you the basics should we see this cluster approach move north, which I think we can all see as a possibility.

Saturday, September 5, 2020 |4:04 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Late yesterday Executive Order 202.60 was released which extends the Open Meetings Law adjustments until October 4, 2020. This has been confirmed by staff from the Committee on Open Government.

Friday, September 4, 2020 |3:21 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • No word yet on the fate of the Open Meetings Law adjustments which expire today. My contact at the Committee on Open Government is gone for the long weekend so we may not know until Tuesday.
  • In case you missed it, the REALM Project has released their “Test 4 Results,” this was the retesting of common library item types in a stacked formation.
    • As an FYI, 83% of member libraries are currently reporting  using a 72-hour quarantine window. This number has remained relatively stable since we began tracking this three months ago.

Just a reminder for directors: if you alter your reopening service level or change your quarantine window please let us know through this form.

Tueday, August 25, 2020 |11:31 am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor has issued Executive order 202.58 which has implications for libraries holding votes this fall as well as public information about absentee voting for the general election that all libraries can help connect voters with:
  • Extends the risk of coronavirus exposure as a “temporary illness” option to [absentee ballot voting in] elections, occurring before November 3, for those not administered by the Board of Elections (BoE)
    • Includes Village, remaining School District, Special Town and Special District
  • Allows every voter, active or inactive, to request and receive an absentee ballot via phone, internet or electronically
    • For requests made my phone, BoE must maintain record
  • Requires the BoE to notify voter within 24 hours of identifying deficiency to allow time to correct
  • Requires the BoE to provide a 5-day cure period for deficiency (instead of 7) if received after November 3
  • Allows BoE to procure and provide absentee ballot applications, absentee ballots, envelopes and mail notification cards
  • Protects the BoE from having action taken against them, for the general election, if good faith effort was made to identify and correct misinformation on absentee ballot
  • Requires all county BoEs and NYCBoE to mail flyers by September 8 to all potential voters notifying them of pertinent data for upcoming elections and methods to vote including absentee
  • Directs the State BoE to create a new envelope for use by the county BoE and NYCBoE that eliminates confusion about where to sign in order for a ballot to be counted
  • Requires all county BoEs and NYCBoE to take necessary steps to expedite the counting of ballots, so that counting is ready to begin as soon as possible.
  • Directing all county BoEs and NYCBoE to report staffing plans as well as any needs for additional staff to ensure a fair, complete, accurate vote.
    • Staffing plans and assistance requests need to be submitted to the state BoE by Sept. 20

 The above summary of 202.58 was provided by Briana McNamee, the Director of Government Relations & Advocacy at the New York Library Association.

Thursday, August 18, 2020 |4:29 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Friday, August 7, 2020 |12:11 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The Governor announced today that schools can bring back students to school facilities this fall if the rate of infection in their communities remains low. School districts can locally decide to open as long as they are in a region where the average rate of positive COVID-19 tests is below 5%. The decision does not guarantee that schools will reopen, it is a local decision as long as the 5% threshold is respected.

Thursday, August 6, 2020 |4:12 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Tuesday, August 4, 2020 |4:24 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Just a heads up that Executive Order 202.48, which extended the adjustments to Open Meetings Law, is set to expire tomorrow. As we’ve seen over the past few months this one has been extended usually right before it expires so perhaps this will be the case again, we’ll keep you posted.
  • 414 Libraries: Today the Governor’s staff confirmed that their language in Executive Order 202.51 to allow 414 petitions to be submitted up to 30 days in advance of Election day is null and void. They did not take the 90 day window to allow for early voting in NYS into consideration when drafting that EO and cannot find a way to rectify the conflict at this time. The State Librarian reports she feels this conversation is over and that there will be no forthcoming solution for 414 votes this year.
  • The Census Bureau announced yesterday that it has moved up the deadline to complete the Census to September 30th, a month earlier than previous scheduled. As of this morning, New York’s Self-Response Rate is 58.6%
  • Thank you to the directors who participated in our “Reopening Coffee Hour” this morning, it was great to learn from the directors who have taken the plunge to reopen their doors to the public and get a sense of what reality looks like today. Just a reminder: As your plans to reopen become clear please let us know through the Reopening Status Form.

Thursday, July 23, 2020 |5:35 pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

A little levity for you on this Thursday: In the Kitchen with Ms. Nicole of the Middle Country Public Library (NY)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 |8:50am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

I’m pleased to share we finally have an executive order (EO) that allows for 414 votes this year as well as language related to nominating petitions for special district library votes to be held between September 15th – December 31st:
Executive Order 202.51
  • Subdivision 1 of section 259 of the Education Law to the extent necessary to reduce the required number of signatures on registered public or free association library funding petitions to three and three tenths percentum of the total number of votes cast for governor at the last gubernatorial election in such municipality, excluding blank and void votes. Such petitions shall be submitted no less than 30 days prior to the scheduled election.
  • Any state law, rule or regulation governing the gathering of nominating petitions for any public library district or special library district election to the extent necessary to provide that the minimum threshold requirement of signatures on nominating petitions for library trustee elections to be held on September 15, 2020 or on a subsequent date after September 15 through December 31, 2020, shall be a number equal to seventy percentum of the minimum number provided for by Education Law or the governing statutory provisions of such library.  Such petitions shall be submitted no less than 30 days prior to the scheduled election.”
The EO addresses only the most immediate issue of petitioning for these two types of library votes. It is silent on the issue of whether or not the general election or special district elections will be held in-person or not. I would continue to recommend we assume they will be held in-person until we are told otherwise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 |8:36am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Executive Order 202.1 was extended last night by Executive Order 202.48 until August 5, 2020.

This has been confirmed with the staff of the Committee on Open Government.

Thursday, July 2, 2020 |4:35pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Good afternoon
A little levity for you today: Coronavirus explained in craft terms: You and 9 friends are crafting. 1 is using glitter. How many projects have glitter? 😊

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 |3:56pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Today New York State updated the list of states that fall under the travel advisory stated in Executive Order 205, which requires a 14-day quarantine of anyone traveling from these states to New York:
    • Alabama
    • Arkansas
    • Arizona
    • California
    • Florida
    • Georgia
    • Iowa
    • Idaho
    • Louisiana
    • Mississippi
    • Nevada
    • North Carolina
    • South Carolina
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah
  • Executive Order 202.45: suspends the emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits if an employee voluntarily travels to a a country that has a level two or three travel health notice (as defined by the CDC) or to a state that falls within the conditions set in Executive Order 205 (see current list above)
  • The US Justice Department (USDOJ) has issued an alert  about fraudulent face mask flyers. The cards state they are issued by the “Freedom to Breathe Agency” (FTBA); state that wearing a mask will incur mental or physical risk for the holder; and claims the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not permit them to be questioned about the use of mask. The card also threatens financial penalties if a business “violates the ADA” and that the business will be reported to the FTBA (which is not a federal or state agency). USDOJ makes it clear these cards are not issued by their department and are not endorsed by the department.

Friday, June 26, 2020 |8:50am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • As promised, attached please find the slides from yesterday’s Directors Briefing which you may find useful for the:
  • Heads up: Executive Order 205, “Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in New York” may impact your staff if they are traveling on vacation to state currently on the list.**
    • All travelers entering New York from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate, over a seven day rolling average, will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine.
    • **The list of states can be found here, keep in mind the list can change as their positive test rates change.:
      • Alabama
      • Arkansas
      • Arizona
      • Florida
      • North Carolina
      • South Carolina
      • Texas
      • Utah
  • *For special district libraries that did not bundle their vote on the school district ballot and run their own election:

Monday, June 22, 2020 |11:53am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  •  NYS
    • The Committee on Open Government staff have confirmed that, currently, the adjustments made to the Open Meetings Law are in effect until July 6. The legislation touted by NYLA that was signed into law by the Governor does not impact this.
    • Resuming in-person programming: for those libraries considering a resumption of in-person programs, you will want to keep in mind that current the threshold for gatherings for regions in Phase III is 25 people.
  • Federal
    • The REALM Project released the results of their first phase of a project to “develop and disseminate science-based information about how materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors”: “Scientists have found that the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is not detectable on five common library materials after three days.”

Friday, June 12, 2020 |2:55pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • State Guidance Update for Libraries: I’m going to preface this one: don’t get upset, your planned reopening dates and stages of service are still fine: We wanted to point out that the guidance for libraries on the NY Forward Business Reopening Lookup Tool has been “upgraded” again. Gone is the specific info for public vs. association libraries and it now pulls in both retail and office guidance for libraries*
    • Public libraries: please note that Executive Order 202.39 clarifies that the 50% reduction in workforce is no longer in effect once a region has been in Phase 2 for two weeks
  • *MHLS has got your back:
    • Casey has updated the Phased Reopening Template to ensure these two guidance documents (retail and office) are cross referenced with the plan, he has also added in any new guidance from Executive Orders and the NYS Health Department which have been issued since we issued the first version of our template. But wait there’s more!: you will also now find a cleaning log template and contact log template embedded in the template.
    • Reopening FAQs for Member Libraries 06.12.2020 are now available on the MHLS Reopening Resources section of our MHLS COVID-19 Resources page.
  • MHLS Delivery Services:
    • Clean-Up run: Wednesday, June 17 & Thursday June 18
      • Drivers will stop at all libraries as per our usual schedule. If you’d like to opt-out of this please do so by end-of-day Monday, June 15.
    • Full restart of 5-day-a-week delivery services: Monday, June 22.
  • Adjustments to Open Meetings Law are in play until at least July 6. There is a bill on the Governor’s desk to extend the adjustments through the life of the state of emergency but it has not been signed yet.
A little levity for today: Nashville Public Library’s “Curbside, Baby” video

Monday, June 8, 2020 |12:43pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • For School District Public Libraries and others types of libraries wit 259/school district ballot votes: The Governor released Executive Order 202.39 this morning which extends ballot deadlines for school district elections:
    • June 9 (hand delivered)
    • June 16 (by mail)
  • The Mid-Hudson Region is projected to move into Phase II tomorrow.
  • We will add a second day to our “clean up run,” therefore we will be delivering and picking up to all member library locations, with the exception of correctional facilities, on Wednesday, June 17 & Thursday June 18*. 5-day a week delivery will resume on Monday, June 22nd to those libraries have reported they are open that week.
    • Delivery Reminders
      • Place outgoing bins for pickup in the same spot in your library as prior to the shutdown
      • If quarantining items, please have those items away from your outgoing bins
      • Clearly label bins/boxes/items not ready for pickup with signage reading: “Not for Pickup”
      • Clearly label outgoing bins with signage reading: “Outgoing to MHLS”
      • If you do not have enough bins for delivery, please let us know and we will do our best to resupply your library. Please note: MHLS delivery bins cannot be used to quarantine materials.
    • *If you would like to opt out of the clean up run please contact Tom Finnigan, MHLS Delivery Operations Manager by end of day, Monday, June 15
  • Construction Bill Ready to be Signed: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, libraries across the state have been unable to continue or complete construction projects. With statewide orders requiring the suspension of all work, these libraries are at risk of missing their deadline through the Division of Library Development and thus, their full State Aid for Library Construction award. Senator Mayer and Assemblyman Ryan introduced S8410/A10465 to assist these libraries (as well as others in “limbo”) by granting them an additional 12 months to complete their projects. Now we need the Governor to sign the bill into law. Please use, and encourage others to use, the New York Library Association’s Online Advocacy Center to send a message to the Governor to encourage him to act quickly to support the library community on this issue.
  • Just a reminder for directors to register online for the DA meeting on Wednesday, thanks!

Thursday, June 4, 2020 |5:19pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Directors: When you have decided on your start up date for curbside service please remember that we need you to:
    • Fill out this form to officially let us know and to let us know if you plan to quarantine materials or not. Changed your start date? Please submit a new form.
    • Submit a ticket at least 1 business day before your start date to give MHLS staff a fighting chance to get your Sierra settings up-to-date
  • Restarting MHLS Delivery Services & System-wide Holds
    • On Wednesday, June 17th MHLS Delivery will do a one day “clean up” run to pick up what you have sitting in your buildings and to leave you bins to reset for the restart of delivery. If any director would like to opt out of this, for any reason, please contact Tom Finnigan, MHLS Delivery Operations Manager, by end of day Monday, June 15th.
      • We have discussed health screening, PPE and social distancing protocols with Valley Courier and will have amended our contract with them by the 17th to incorporate our agreements about driver procedures on these subjects.
      • Reminders:
        • •Place outgoing bins for pickup in the same spot in your library as prior to the shutdown
          •If quarantining items, please have those items away from your outgoing bins
          •Clearly label bins/boxes/items not ready for pickup with signage reading: “Not for Pickup”
          •Clearly label outgoing bins with signage reading: “Outgoing to MHLS”
          •If you do not have enough bins for delivery, please let us know and we will do our best to resupply your library. Please note: MHLS delivery bins cannot be used to quarantine materials.
    • On Monday, June 22nd both system-wide holds will be turned back on in the online catalog and delivery services will resume. Our drivers will only stop at libraries that have officially reported to us (<–yup, that’s a link to that form again) that they have started, at least, curbside service as of June 22.

  • Staff Briefing: Sierra During COVID-19 Reopening
  • Directors: Please register for the DA meeting next week so we know we have a quorum, thank you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 |5:54pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Before the COVID-19 specific updates I just wanted to share that like many of you I have been glued to the news over the past week, even more than I already had been due to the COVID-19 crisis. The necessary outcry and action we have seen in reaction to Mr. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, just the latest event in a centuries long battle in our country, combined with the pandemic and resulting economic crisis feels surreal at times. It is a lot all at once. You may be feeling overwhelmed, angry, sad, even hopeless – I know I’ve felt all of those things over the past few days.
    But here’s where I find myself today: resolved. I am resolved to do my best to help. I am going to double down on working with you, our staff and board and our colleagues around the country to find a way through this. Yes, we are working day and night to figure out our economic troubles. Yes, we are working to find pathways to safely reopen libraries and resume system services. But that cannot drown out other work that desperately needs to be done.
    I am committed to listening to people of color. I am committed to learning more about my own implicit bias. I am working to learn more about cultural competence in the workplace. These are three things I added to my list. Things that were already on my list that I think will address the systemic inequalities in our country? Helping with the 2020 Census, helping more people get registered to vote, and helping get more people participate in our elections.

    If you are feeling overwhelmed I encourage you to find three things. Three things to help yourself or others. They can be small things. When confronted with big issues sometimes it is just about finding the first step. Then the next and then the next. We can’t fix everything all at once, and sometimes that means starting with ourselves so we can work with others.

    Here’s a resource I thought you might appreciate: Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi, co-authors of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, kicked off SLJ’s Day of Dialog on May 27, 2020. Here is the entire keynote conversation.

  • At tomorrow’s Director Briefing we’ll clarify some of the twists and turns in the new state guidance for libraries, discuss masks, the restart of delivery and holds, and get the highlights of interviews Laurie has done with member libraries who are have started curbside in our system
A little levity for today, our very own Morton Memorial Library in Pine Hill produced this very adorable clip about their curbside service starting up, way to go Gisi!

Monday, June 1, 2020 |6:09pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • I know the past few days have been hard and heartbreaking as we have watched our country’s collective response, not just to the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but to centuries of systemic racism in the United States. I thought it worth a moment of your time to share two things that are helping me cope with this situation today:
    • Today I spoke with fellow library leaders from urban areas impacted by violent riots that followed peaceful protests, cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester – all report no damage to their library facilities in the aftermath despite damage to buildings adjacent to theirs. My hope is that the respect shown these library facilities is a testament to the important role these institutions have played in the lives of residents in this cities.
    • As many of you likely recall, Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, worked to deliver lessons on love, kindness and friendship. In times of trouble, to reassure children who were aware of frightening events in the news but were too young to fully understand their meaning, he told a story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

      You are “the helpers.”

      You are working to keep library workers and the public safe by putting in the time and energy to write policies and develop procedures that respect public health guidance and human dignity.

      You are helping to develop empathy, respect and understanding in communities across the Hudson Valley through your commitment to service and by upholding the core values of librarianship.

      You are giving a voice to traditionally marginalized voices through thoughtful collection development, program curation and meaningful community partnerships.

      As we move into the next few weeks, I hope this reminder brings you strength, comfort and confidence. You are part of something wonderful: a cooperative network of like-minded people who are partners in creating a better future for all community members.

      There’s no doubt we’ve got work to do. So, let’s do it: Respect local needs. Work together. Recognize and value diversity. Continue to help all be heard. #SoapBoxDismount

  • The guidance for libraries through the NY Forward Business Reopening Lookup Tool has been updated to read:
    • “Your business is currently permitted to operate with restrictions statewide. Restrictions that are applicable to your industry are as follows:
      Libraries that are operated by a local government or political subdivision are allowed to operate as business restrictions do not apply to government agencies or entities. As a unit of local government, they are, however, subject to the 50% reduction in non-essential workforce that remains in effect and may consider alternate modes of operation (e.g. curbside or “in store” pickup) as they so determine. 
      Libraries that are operated by a not-for-profit or other non-governmental organization may perform curbside or “in-store” pickup once the region in which they are located reaches Phase 1 and may perform other “in-store” operations once the region in which they are located reaches Phase 2.

      In order to operate, you must comply with all safety guidelines for your industry, as well as any additional health and safety guidance issued by the state. Please click here to read applicable guidelines.

      If the link above contains guidance specific to your industry, you must affirm that you have read and understand your obligation to operate in accordance with the guidance at the bottom of the document.

      Please note that in order to be fully compliant, you must develop a business safety plan.”
    • A reminder to please report reopening dates to MHLS using the MHLS Library Reopening Status Form
  • Executive Order 202.34 extends the suspension of in-person meeting requirement of Open Meetings Law to June 27th. This has been confirmed by the NYS Committee on Open Government.
  • The New York Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) is restarting its mail delivery service as of today (June 1, 2020). Staff will begin circulating books and equipment through the United States Postal Service (USPS) to TBBL patrons.
    • “Please expect initial delays in the mail delivery service as staff work to catch up on a large circulation backlog. Additional staff have been reassigned to this area of the library to help resume regular service. TBBL patrons should start receiving materials within the next two weeks. Patrons may continue to contact our library to place book requests.”
    • “As a reminder, patrons are encouraged to register for the free Braille and Audio Reading Download service (BARD). BARD provides immediate access to audio and electronic braille books, magazines, and music scores. Thousands of resources are accessible any time of the day. Patrons can download titles from our collection and play them through an Android, iOS, or Kindle device. Patrons may alternatively download books to a flash drive or blank audio cartridge and play them using the TBBL issued digital player or a third party device. TBBL patrons may apply for BARD through this short online application.”
    • “If you have questions about TBBL service, please contact our library staff. Toll Free: 1-800-342-3688;

Friday, May 29, 2020 |5:37pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Reopening Guidance:
    • Association Library stakeholders who want to help advocate to get association libraries added to the guidance for libraries available through the NY Forward Business Reopening Lookup Tool are encouraged to focus energy at the state level. A draft message and who to send it to follows:
      • Message: Will you please advocate on behalf of New Yorkers to get an update to the current guidance found in the NY Forward Business Lookup Tool to apply to ALL TYPES of libraries, including association libraries which account for more than half of the libraries in the state, therefore impacting millions of New Yorkers. The uneven guidance currently provided is creating an undesirable situation in which only a handful of libraries in the region are authorized by the state to open which could result in residents seeking library services to overrun the few libraries that can open.


        1. Mid-Hudson Regional Control Room (Dutchess, Putnam & Ulster):
        2. Capital Region Control Room (Columbia & Greene):
        3. Regional representative of the Governor for the Mid-Hudson Region, Dylan Miyoski:
  • Mask EO: The Governor issued a new executive order (EO202.34) making it clear that “business operators and building owners, and those authorized on their behalf” may deny entry to individuals not wearing masks or face-coverings. For someone not able to wear a mask due to medical reasons: the library may not request documentation to prove the medical reason but may have language in their patron code of conduct that notes reasonable accommodations will be made such as curbside delivery, lending laptops or mobile hot spots, access to phone/chat reference and online programs.
  • Curbside: Lessons Learned
  • Chat Reference Products – here are the products mentioned for offering chat reference to your community on today’s call:
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued “COVID-19 Guidance on Social Distancing at Work

Thursday, May 28, 2020 |5:22pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • At our weekly Director Briefing tomorrow at 2pm we will provide the latest info about reopening guidance, the new executive order about mandating masks for shoppers in private businesses, share some insights from our friends up in Rochester, NY who have been providing curbside services for more than a week now, and Laurie will again review the steps you need to know in Sierra for running curbside pick up and the differences in holds/paging pre- and post-startup of system wide holds and delivery. Laurie will once again use the two documents below as the source documentation for this portion of the meeting. Directors: if you or your staff have specific questions on this topic please send those to Laurie by noon tomorrow.
  • Reopening Guidance
    • For those of you keeping score at home, some regions of the state are moving into Phase 2 tomorrow which means we’ll finally (hopefully!) get a look at the Phase 2 industry specific guidance.
    • We are continuing our efforts to advocate for the addition of association libraries included in the current entry for libraries available through the Business Reopening Lookup Tool and have enlisted the help of the Mid-Hudson Regional Control Room, the Governor’s representative in the Mid-Hudson region and our state representatives. Everyone agrees it is obvious to include association libraries, now we just need to get that citation to match common sense!
A little levity for you on this Thursday: Thanks to Rosie Perez joining Governor Cuomo at his press conference today I learned a new phrase: “real deal Holyfield” [“Wear a mask, please. The numbers in our communities are staggering. This is not a joke. This is not a hoax. This is real. This is real deal, Holyfield.”] I plan to work it into daily conversations so you are forewarned…

Friday, May 22, 2020 |4:23pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Good afternoon,
Wishing you a peaceful weekend, please take care of yourself.

Thursday, May 21, 2020 |5:19pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Nothing as exciting as yesterday but still a few timeline items for you:
  • Tomorrow’s Director Briefing will be held at 2:00pm, we plan to share the last info about restart guidance from the state, answers to additional questions that have arisen since our Restart Guidance for Directors session today (yes, we’ve already gotten more questions!), and will review Sierra info for conducting curbside service.
  • Slides from today’s Restart Guidance for Directors session are attached.
  • Help get the word out: Today the Governor took the time to ask people to please answer calls that come from “NYS Contract Tracing” which will display on smart phone displays. This is what a person will see when tracing workers are attempting to contact you to let you know you’ve come into contact with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19
  • The State Library supplied the outcomes from a recent event held by the Regents Advisory Committee on Libraries related to reopening libraries, including a recording:
A little levity for today: Bumper Tables

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 |5:47pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Best laid plans eh?
On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for their measured, sane, professional work today. To those who helped me by sharing info as it came to them, a heartfelt thank you.  The more info I have, the better able we can help everyone. The good work you have been doing for weeks now means you are in a far better position than many of your peers throughout the state to absorb, process, and act on today’s news.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 |2:19pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

This just came through from NYLA, it does not reflect their earlier prediction as to how we would get started in New York State however does clarify the thinking that has been swirling around out there since the earliest Executive Orders were issued. Does this cause questions? Absolutely! I will update you later today with any additional info I can.

From: Briana McNamee <>
To: LC-Legislative Committee <>
Subject: [nyla-leg] UPDATE: CURBSIDE PICKUP

It has come to our attention that as of earlier today, ESD has altered the status of libraries & archives as “permitted to operate with restrictions STATEWIDE”, through the NY Forward site.

Restrictions include:

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. Please click here to read applicable guidelines.

Per the ESD: 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).

Note: It is NYLA’s understanding, the above does not apply to association libraries.

We will be putting out notice to the membership at-large later this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 |5:48pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As I bet many of you have heard the Capital District region has been approved for reopening tomorrow, May 20. The Times Union issued this article with the layout of the dates for each phase if all went smoothly:
This may be jarring to some as this news came out less than 24 hours before the green light gets turned on but I just wanted to remind you that the phases open the door to restarting services, they do not mandate that you restart. There is still no confirmation of which phase libraries are in but we are certain they are not listed in Phase 1 according to the state.
All of what we’ve been talking about still holds, we recommend you focus on:
  • PPE procurement
  • Cleaning supply procurement
  • Safety planning using this template
  • Thinking through procedures for social distancing using the service levels that work for your library, the template that Casey created is a possible starting spot for you on this one.

Monday, May 18, 2020 |5:53pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The state has issued a “New York Forward Business Reopening Lookup Tool” which cross-references the 10 reopening regions with NAICS codes to identify who is authorized to re-open and who is not. You don’t need to know the code before you hop on to this page, it is easy to find libraries in the drop down menu provided.
  • Neither the Mid-Hudson Region nor the Capital District Region has been authorized to reopen at this time. Comments made today by the regional control room for the Capital District, which encompasses Columbia and Greene Counties, indicate this region will be the next to reopen, possibly before the end of the week.
  • Our contacts at NYLA continue to report that staff in the Governor’s office have indicated that libraries will be included in Phase 2 reopening guidance issued by the state. There is not an estimate of when we will know for sure.
  • Without specific guidance from the state on reopening libraries it is important to keep in mind:
I understand there has been some excitement in Dutchess County today with various stakeholders being told libraries can reopen. I have not seen anything official in writing related to this but would suggest that you keep the two items under the last bullet above in mind as you think through your path ahead.

Friday, May 15, 2020 |5:49pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • We are pleased to officially launch a customizable template for your library’s restart planning purposes (attached and also available on our COVID-19 Resources page under Restarting Resources). This tool was authored by Casey Conlin, MHLS Library Sustainability Coordinator by cross referencing the new mandates from NYS, guidance from the CDC, OSHA, EEOC, and best practices from libraries around the country. All public health guidance sources are referenced within the document.
    • This template is offered for planning purposes only. MHLS is not a public health authority and defers to guidance from county, state and federal public health agencies which may be updated on an on-going basis, including once this template was last updated. Libraries are responsible to ensure their plans are in compliance with directives and guidance from public health officials. MHLS advises that all libraries have their reopening plan reviewed by their insurance company.
  • We are offering two upcoming events related to restart planning:
    • Restart Guidance for Directors: Thursday, May 21st from 3:30-4:30pm | Register Here
      • Questions are welcomed to be submitted in advance to Casey Conlin, MHLS Library Sustainability Coordinator:
    • Trustee Roles & Responsibilities During Restarting Library Services: Wednesday, May 27th from 1:30-2:30pm  |  Register Here
      •  Questions are welcomed to be submitted in advance to MHLS Executive Director, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich:
  • The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums Project (REALM)
    • Learn more here
    • Sign up for updates here
    • The REALM Operations Working Group is collecting “workflow stories or use cases that describe in great detail all of the interactions that a piece of circulating library material may have from the moment it is returned to the moment it is back on the shelf.” They are collecting these stories in this document, where you will also find an example provided. DUE WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2020.

Thursday, May 14, 2020 |4:40pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Just a reminder that tomorrow’s Director Briefing begins at 1:00pm. Log-in info is below (note: withheld in posting). We will primarily be addressing restart issues including MHLS delivery and Sierra restart plans, and safety planning for reopening.
  • New York State issued a number of resources and directives over the past 24 hours for businesses opening in approved regions for Phase I (not us at this time) which are very helpful for understanding what the documentation for reopening libraries may look like. AT THIS TIME, NONE SPECIFICALLY APPLY TO LIBRARIES. Please use as reference only until library specific guidance is issued:
    • Curbside and In-Store Pickup Retail Guidelines for Employers and Employees
      • RSA note: Retail businesses are being asked to sign an “attestation” that they have read and understand the guidelines so it is likely we will see something similar for libraries or be directed to use one of the earlier issued attestation forms.
    • NY Forward Business Re-Opening Safety Plan Template
      • RSA note: It is noted that this type of plan will not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval but we have heard that in some central upstate counties, the county government is asking for plans to be submitted for approval. To my knowledge, no MHLS region counties have indicated their plans on this front.
  • Empire State Development has issued answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on New York Forward and Business Reopening
  • Tomorrow’s MHLS session on Orientation to Stepped Reopening Plan Template for MHLS Member Libraries will provide you with a template for a plan that is cross-referenced with the aforementioned safety plan template to augment or accelerate your local planning for your libraries. Directors have been given preferential registration for this event. If you miss out, don’t despair it will be recorded and we will have future events that address restart planning and best practices.
I recognize that this is an intense time, that lots of information is coming your way and that you may feel overwhelmed. Please take a deep breath – we’re going to get through this, one step at a time.
A little something to remind us all what matters most and, hopefully, put a smile on your face:

Monday, May 11, 2020 |4:58pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • This weekend there was some confusion caused over the Executive Order that came out on Friday (202.29). The NY PAUSE program was not extended to June 6, just the underlying emergency powers that allow the Governor to continue to issue Executive Orders during a time of emergency. PAUSE will transition to “NY FORWARD” on May 15th which triggers:
    1. the need for a region to meet the 7 metrics which then triggers
    2. the need for the region to provide a detailed plan that includes “how rates of infection will be monitored, if health care capacity is enough to deal with any infection increase, and if infrastructure is in place to do testing and tracing. In addition, they will also need to have a plan in place for how people will return to work, including what measures businesses will have to ensure social distancing and mask wearing.” Once this plan is approved:
    3. the four-phased opening plan outlined by the Governor begins

This is confusing as while PAUSE doesn’t officially continue, our region may very well be in a “PAUSE-like status” beyond May 15th as currently neither of the regions within MHLS’ service area (the Capital District Region or the Mid-Hudson Region*) meets the metrics to trigger the NY FORWARD steps.

  • The Governor announced today that three regions have met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s regional phased opening plan, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley. If their trends continue they will theoretically start phase one on May 15th.
    • You can check on our region through the state’s regional monitoring dashboard, which is available here.
  • Today the Governor released the “NY Forward Reopening Guide” – but don’t get too excited, there is no mention of libraries at this time. According to our sources at NYLA, the Executive will be elaborating on each phase on a rolling basis:
  • Regional Control Room Members Announced, these groups will monitor regional metrics during the reopening process:
    • Capital Region (which includes Columbia & Greene counties)
      • General Pat Murphy, DHSES
      • Ruth Mahoney, REDC co-chair
      • Mike Blue, Capital District Area Labor Federation President
      • Albany County Executive, Dan McCoy
      • Rensselaer County Executive, Steve McLaughlin
      • Schenectady County Manager, Rory Fluman
      • Saratoga County Administrator, Spencer Hellwig
      • Washington County Vice Chair, Robert Henk
      • Warren County Administrator, Ryan Moore
      • Greene County Administrator, Shaun Groden
      • Columbia County Chair, Matt Murell
      • City of Albany Mayor, Kathy Sheehan
    • Mid-Hudson Region (which, for now, includes Dutchess, Putnam & Ulster counties)
      • Mike Hein, former Ulster County Executive
      • Johnathan Drapkin, President and CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
      • Tom Carey, AFL-CIO Westcheter-Putnam Central Labor President
      • Dutchess County Executive, Marc Molinaro
      • Ulster County Executive, Pat Ryan
      • Sullivan County Manager, Joshua Potosek
      • Putnam County Executive, MaryEllen Odell
      • Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus
      • Westchester County Executive, George Latimer
      • Rockland County Executive, Ed Day
      • City of Yonkers Mayor, Mike Spano

*Over the past week there was speculation that Dutchess County and Ulster County may be broken out separately from the Mid-Hudson region. Nothing official reflects this at this time.

Friday, May 8, 2020 |7:59am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The latest Executive Order (202.28) has extended the adjustments to Open Meetings Law through June 6th. This has been confirmed with the Committee on Open Government.

This means that online meetings are still the order of the day with the caveat that they are recorded and transcribed and that the public has a right to attend. And yes, minutes still need to be taken!

Thursday, May 7, 2020 |5:29pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • We look forward to speaking with you at tomorrow’s Director Briefing at 2pm. On this call we will share the latest news from Albany in regards to the reopening phases and the pursuit of library specific guidance. Laurie will also address the global update for due dates and the product reviews of two apps that could help manage curbside service.
  • With the help of the county chairs of each of the five counties served by MHLS we have reached out to each county executive/board of supervisor chair in our region to work towards a coordinated approach to re-opening libraries. This action was taken in reaction to the announcement yesterday that the Governor is allowing “local government officials” to determine business eligibility within a region as it relates to the phases. We let these county leaders know that state level, library specific guidance that has been influenced by the library community is in the works and expressed our concerns of the various challenges that will be caused if libraries are regionally, or by type, opened unevenly. I’d like to thank the county chairs and Julie Kelsall-Dempsey, our System Services Advisory Committee Chair, for their guidance and leadership on this issue:
    • Columbia County: AnnaLee Dragon, Kinderhook
    • Dutchess County: Dawn Jardine, Red Hook
    • Greene County: Debra Kamecke, Cairo
    • Putnam County: Gillian Thorpe, Cold Spring
    • Ulster County: Margie Menard, Kingston (and 2020 Chair of the MHLS Directors Association)
  • I’d like to recommend this webinar recording for all member library directors: “HR/Legal Guidance For Employers Getting Ready to Reopen” which was hosted by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce
A little levity from the “It Could Always Be Worse Department”:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 |1:01pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. As we all anxiously await the library specific guidance that will hopefully make it clear what level of service is appropriate in each of the four phases outlined by the Governor when each region has been greenlighted to get those phases started, I wanted to share that the Governor has outlined safety precautions that each business must put in place upon re-opening to help lower the risk of spreading the virus. I’ve notated what I could below (see items marked with asterisks) with links to various pieces of guidance that is currently out there to help you craft your local procedures and policies:
  • Adjust workplace hours and shift design as necessary to reduce density in the workplace;
  • Enact social distancing protocols;
  • Restring non-essential travel for employees;
  • Require all employees and customers to wear masks if in frequent contact with each other;
  • Implement strict cleaning and sanitation standards*;
  • Enact a continuous health screening process for individuals to enter the workplace**;
  • Continue tracing, tracking and reporting of cases; and
  • Develop liability processes***

*At this time MHLS is recommending that all libraries adopt the EPA & CDC “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes

**The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has approved the following screening mechanisms if completed in a manner that is consistent with the EEOC guidance including confidentiality of medical information:

  • Screening for Symptoms: Employers may ask employees entering the workplace about any COVID-19 symptoms identified by public health officials. Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any notes or documentation related to this screening.
  • Temperature Checks: Employers may require all employees to have a daily temperature check before entering the workplace and may maintain a log of the results.  Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any notes or documentation related to this screening.
  • Please note: all medical information about a particular employee, including info related to COVID-19, should be stored separately from the employee’s personnel file. It may be filed in existing medical files, no need to create a new file system just for COVID-19 info.

***While not completely spelled out at this time, this is likely a reference to the need for a “proactive infection plan” that outlines protocols for what to do if an employee develops COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. A good resource for this is the CDC: “If the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately. Surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected. Information on persons who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms should be compiled. Others at the facility with close contact within 6 feet of the employee during this time would be considered exposed. Employers should implement the recommendations in the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19in the workplace.” Source:

  1. A question that has been floating out there just got an answer from the  “Ask a Lawyer” service yesterday: “Can a library prevent someone from coming into the library if they refuse to wear a mask? I know that library behavior policies would need to be broadened to include mask-wearing. Are libraries required to provide a mask for the public – and what if a person wears the mask improperly – can they be asked to leave?”Answer: “New York has numerous “types” of libraries, serving a diverse array of locations.  All of them are empowered to take the steps needed to serve their communities safely.

For libraries who want to do just that—knowing it will be a vital part of their community’s response and recovery—here is how to enact and enforce the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Step 1

Assess your library’s status under the current Executive Orders.  Does your library regard itself as exempt from the Orders due to status as a governmental entity (like a school)?[1]  Or has your library been operating under compliance with the 100% workforce reduction…and thus, subject to further such restrictions (or them being eased)?

If your library is subject to the Executive Orders, linking your policy to future Orders is a good idea.  That’s why you’ll see that as a variable in the template, below.  And if your library concluded it didn’t need to follow them, well, that part doesn’t apply to you.

                Step 2

Assess what operations your library will resume.  Will you resume lending books, but restrict reading rooms?  Will you encourage curbside pickup, or perhaps lower your building capacity to ensure social distancing?

This step assumes that the return to full services might be incremental—but with the resumption of services tailored to the needs of your community.  It is where the customization kicks in.

                Step 3

Once your library has confirmed which activities will resume, select the appropriate safety protocols for those operations.

This is why this will not be an exercise in one-size fits all.  Some libraries may decide to expand reading rooms or acquire additional electronic devices to loan.  Some will need masks, some may need gloves, and others might adopt different safety measures.  What’s important is that the measures be tailored to the activity.

As a starting place[2] for that selection, I really like this function-centered guidance from OSHA:
NOTE on this guidance from OSHA: While the common thinking might be that libraries are primarily “customer service” environments (as the term is used by OSHA), many libraries have back end and programming operations that are even more interactive and tactile than retail.  That’s why I like OSHA’s approach for this—it sorts COVID-19-related safety practices by function (of course, ALA and other library-specific resources will further distill and assess these resources for libraries[3]).

                Step 4

If the option is available to your library, I strongly recommend confirming your library’s operational choices and related safety practices with your county health department.  Your local health officials may even have some thoughts about unique considerations for your locality (after all, that is their job).  This is also a great way to show the public that your library has thought these measures through thoroughly, that your choices are rationally related to your activities, and that they have credentialed back-up.

                Step 5

As the member writes, once you have selected your operations and confirmed your safety measures, add the measures (temporarily) to your library’s Code of Conduct.

Here is a template policy for doing that (variables are in yellow, including whether or not your library must abide by the current Executive Orders):
The [Insert] Library is committed to serving its community during hard times and good.

The year 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges to our nation, state, and area of service.

To continue serving our patrons during this difficult time, while placing the health and safety of our community at the forefront, the Library Board of Trustees has adopted the below Temporary Safety Practices Policy. 

The safety measures in this policy have been confirmed with the [Insert] County Health Department.

The board’s authority to adopt these measures is found in our charter, bylaws, New York Education Law Sections 255, 260, 226, 8 NYCRR 90.2, and Article 2 of the Not-for-profit corporation law.  We also consider it our duty to develop these measures to keep our services accessible at this time. 

Staff at the [Insert] Library have the authority to enforce these measures like any other of the Library’s Rules.  Concerns about this policy should be directed to [Insert name]. Thank you for honoring these measures, which are designed to keep our community safe, while allowing access to the library.

[Insert Library] Temporary Safety Practices

Scope of Temporary Safety Measures

The [Insert] Library operates per relevant law and Executive Orders, including those pertaining to mandatory workforce reductions.  Therefore, the temporary practices in this Policy may be further modified as needed to conform with relevant Orders.


Until the board votes to revoke this temporary policy, only the following routine activities may be performed on site at the library:

Safety Practices

Until the board votes to revoke this temporary policy, the library will require all people on the premises to abide by the following safety practices:

[based on activities and confirmed safety practices, including but not limited to use of particular PPE, insert]


In the event any safety requirement is not practicable on the basis of a disability, please contact [Insert name] to explore a reasonable accommodation.


To aid the community in honoring these requirements, the Library will transmit this policy through social media, and use a variety of health authority-approved, age-appropriate, multi-lingual and visual means to transmit this message in a manner consistent with our mission and our identity as a welcoming and accessible resource to the community.

Code of Conduct

Adherence to these practices shall be enforced as a requirement of the Library’s Code of Conduct until such time as this temporary policy is revoked.

                In developing this guidance, I have considered the long line of federal cases related to the library access (starting with Kreimer v Bur. of Police).[4]

New York has a vivid array of people devoted to civil liberties, and there is a chance a community member could feel that conditioning library access on temporary protective measures adopted in the interest of public health could violate First Amendment or other rights.  This is why careful consideration of what operations your library will resume, and enforcement of only those safety measures related to those operations (steps 1 and 2), are so critical.

The First Amendment tests of such measures will vary based on the circumstances,[5] but the goal of combining a clear policy with well-documented, informed decision-making, good communication, and the backup of health authorities, is to avoid the need for such legal testing in the first place!

As with all things template, the suggested language above should be modified to fit your unique library.  If there is a local attorney versed in First Amendment and municipal law, this is a good time to bring them in to review your final product.[6]  The town attorney for your municipality will have had to address similar First Amendment/safety concerns (and is probably doing a lot of that right now), so they might be a good pick.

And now, with all that as background,[7] to address the members’ specific questions:

Can a library prevent someone from coming into the library if they refuse to wear a mask?

Yes (but follow the steps above).

Are libraries required to provide a mask for the public?

No (but hey, it would be nice, especially if you can get them donated).

And what if a person wears the mask improperly – can they be asked to leave?

Yes (but take care to consider any implications under ADA[8]; some people might need to use alternate PPE).

[1] Whatever your library decides should be consistent with its analysis in any decision to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, or other aid.

[2] Of course—especially as the mother of a Type1 diabetic and Gen Xer with parents almost 80[2]— as a finishing place, I like a world where we no longer need to socially distance, maniacally sterilize, and use PPE…but we don’t know when we’ll get that world.

[3] I like writing guidance for libraries because at a certain point, you can assume they know how to find the type of resources one is describing.  It’s like telling a lawyer that something is in the penal law—I assume they can just find what I’m talking about.

[4] Citation: 958 F2d 1242 [3d Cir 1992]

[5] A recent good example of how First Amendment tests can turn on precise circumstances can be seen in Wagner v Harpstead, 2019 US Dist LEXIS 220357 [D Minn Nov. 12, 2019, No. 18-cv-3429].

[6] This First Amendment concern is less critical for association libraries, but since such libraries also have a vested interest in maximizing access to their areas of service, it’s a good exercise for them, too.

[7] I do run on, I know.  Occupational hazard.

[8] Here is a good resource for ADA and COVID-19:

Friday, May 5, 2020 |5:52pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Just so you have all of the stated re-opening guidance, AKA “NEW YORK FORWARD,” in one spot:
    • Regionally-driven, there will be four phases:
      1. Construction, Manufacturing, Wholesale Supply and Select Retail (Curbside Pickup)
      2. Professional Services, Finance and Insurance, Retail, Administrative Support and Real Estate
      3. Restaurants, Food Service and Hotel Accommodations
      4. Sporting Venues, Arts, Entertainment and Education

      There are 10 Regions:

      1. Long Island
      2. NYC
      3. Mid-Hudson (Dutchess, Putnam & Ulster)
      4. Capital Region (Columbia & Greene)
      5. Mohawk Valley
      6. North Country
      7. Central New York
      8. Southern Tier
      9. Finger Lakes
      10. Western New York

      For a region to enter into these phased approaches and reopen, the following CDC guidelines and health criteria much be met:

      • 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
  • Input on Library Reopening Guidance Transmitted
    • Thank you to all who provided input on the draft input for specific library guidance for the state over the past week. Combining your input with input from the 23 public library system directors and the staff at NYLA the input here was provided to Empire State Development and will be carried by NYLA Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen and NYLA Director of Government Relations & Advocacy, Briana McNamee to a meeting with the Governor’s staff tomorrow:.
    • I know you are hungry for a diagnosis of which phase libraries fall into, I hope we will have some more insights after NYLA’s meeting with the Governor’s staff tomorrow. Thank you for all the good work and sharing you’ve been doing, it greatly influenced the input guidance that will be presented to the Governor’s staff and is already in the hands of the team working on library-specific guidance at Empire State Development. I highly encourage you to continue restart discussions with your county peers, if you don’t have an upcoming county meeting on the calendar I am happy to host one from you. The info I’ve been seeing today speaks more to county-based plans or ad-hoc county coalitions aligned with existing relationships rather than the stated regions the Governor notes above…
  • Slides from today’s Trustee Briefing are here.
  • New Resource: Thanks to the Ohio Library Council here are templates for many signs that will come in handy as we enter our re-opening phases:
    • Tools and Templates

      Monitor traffic in and out of library. Limit library users to a safe distance capacity.

      Post this sign at entrances notifying customers to STOP if they are sick and ask them not to enter the library.

      Practice physical distancing during pickup and delivery by talking with the customer through a passenger window, loading items directly into the customer’s trunk without contact, or making labeled items available at the door.

      If your library has self-checkout, have customers check out their own materials.

A little levity for today: The 31 best Andrew Cuomo slides (My personal favorites are 9, 11, & 13)

Friday, May 1, 2020 |5:18pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Some late breaking news to share that I know many school district public libraries and special district libraries who have upcoming votes have been waiting anxiously for. The Governor has issued Executive Order 202.26 which outlines the rules for school district and library votes between now and the end of June.
I’d like to first point out that the prevalence of information for libraries in this EO is a huge win for the library community. Pulling together to raise the flag on the various issues surrounding library votes and ensuring the State Librarian and the Government Relations staff of the New York Library Association had what they needed to advocate on our behalf was no small matter.
A  more detailed analysis is coming but I wanted to point out immediately that:
  • School District Public Libraries: unless you bundle your vote on the ballot with the school district on June 9, you will be required to mail an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope to all eligible voters.
  • Special District Public Libraries: it looks as if all special district votes are at least, rescheduled to September 15th, with the following exception: “however, a library district may conduct an election on June 9, 2020 pursuant to this Executive Order if some election is managed by a school district.”
  • 259 Libraries: the EO requires the school to include your item on their absentee ballots if you are pursuing an increase this year
I will take some time to do a more thorough analysis and compare notes with colleagues and have a more thorough breakdown for you next week.

Thursday, April 30, 2020 |5:10pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • We have a Director Briefing scheduled for tomorrow at 2pm, log-in info is below. In addition to announcements from MHLS staff we’ll also look at a highlight reel of how member libraries have been serving their communities during the work-from-home order.
  • The EPA & CDC have released joint guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, it includes advice for what to do if an EPA-approved disinfectant is unavailable. See the guidance here and infographic here.
  • The Governor has appointed Dennis Wolcott, CEO of the Queens Public Library to the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.
  • As a number of states re-opened today we’re seeing more and more guidance on library re-opening. We’re adding everything we come across to the “Reopening Resources” section of
While I can’t promise I’ll have something every time I do an update, I do have another “A little levity” item for you today: A Man Filed an HR Complaint Against His Cat While Working From Home

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 |5:56pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

A little levity for today: A new outdoor program for your library or from home? “Commence Silly Walking

Friday, April 24, 2020 |3:42pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Slides from today’s Director Briefing are here the details of our limited delivery run next week have been sent under separate cover to the MHLS Notices list.
  • The Governor today announced that the state’s revenue shortfalls are likely to be down by 14% for this year if there is no federal aid package for states. This number is highly likely to correlate to proposed cuts slated to come at the end of the first “measurement period” (April 30th) if not before. MHLS staff and trustees, with help from leadership of the Directors Association, have been working on our response to this likely cut and beyond. More details to come.
  • The New York Library Association has confirmed there is no bullet aid in the current state budget.
  • Please take a moment to participate in the American Library Association’s campaign to urge our Senators to support emergency funding for libraries in upcoming stimulus legislation.
A little levity for today: A possible model to help us test our curbside pick-up strategies…

Friday, April 24, 2020 |3:24pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

In response to requests from directors, Sierra data analysis at MHLS and with an eye towards testing our modeling for re-opening plans we will be facilitating a limited delivery run next week on Tuesday, April 28th & Wednesday, April 29th.
If your library would prefer not to participate please let Tom Finningan, MHLS Delivery Operations Manager, know by Monday, April 27th at 2:30pm:
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:
  • Will the normal Tuesday and Wednesday route schedule be used?
    • Yes.
  • Will Valley Courier drivers practice socially distancing best practices?
    • Yes. Drivers will all be wearing masks and gloves. For the most part, they will arrive at libraries well before any staff may be there. However, if they do overlap with staff they will practice social distancing
  • How will drivers know what to pick up?
    • Drivers will follow the usual procedure of picking up any boxes left in their usual pick up spots as well as any overflow items with outgoing transit slips.
  • Should we pre-sort items if that is our normal practice?
    • Yes, pre-sorting is always appreciated to facilitate forward sorting.
  • What should we do with items dropped off at our library?
    • You are welcome to check them in, shelve your items, place items on your holdshelf OR leave them sitting in the bins until your staff has returned.
  • Should we run notices?
    • No. Do not run any notices.
Please note that MHLS currently recommends using masks and gloves if processing items that have been in your facility for less than 72 hours. We strongly encourage regular hand washing after handling library materials.
If you have any questions please direct them to Tom at

Thursday, April 23, 2020 |4:26pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Director Briefings
    • Friday, April 24th Director Briefing at 2:00pm:
      • In addition to the usual cast of characters (myself, Laurie & Casey) we will be joined by two special guests, MHLS Delivery Operations Manager Tom Finnigan & Chris Herron, MHLS Facilities Manager & Assistant Delivery Operations Manager. Why you may ask? Because we are planning to run delivery Tuesday & Wednesday next week and we’d like to brief you on the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of that.
      • Please send any questions you may have – on any topic – in advance to my attention. We will do our best to get to them all one way or another!
  • The Institute of Museum &  Library Services (IMLS) has announced a COVID-19 Research Partnership to inform safe handling of collections and reopening practices for libraries. This builds on the initial steps IMLS took to help identify and respond to the needs of libraries and museums several weeks ago when they hosted a webinar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the recording is available on the IMLS website

A little levity for the day: DIY Face Mask Tutorial With Kay

Friday, April 17, 2020 |3:35pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • The Governor has extended New York on PAUSE through May 15th. Accordingly we have extended the temporary suspension of MHLS Delivery Services, ILL, and in-person events to this date as well.
    • Please open a ticket with to extend your item due dates and card expiration dates as needed
    • The Open Meetings Law adjustments were not extended in this latest Executive Order. They are still set to expire on May 7th but the Committee on Open Government feels this is likely to be extended soon to match with the new May 15th date.
    • The Governor has begun providing some insights as to what a phased reopening of the economy will look like. It appears it will be the reverse of how everything was shut down by allowing a growing percentage of the workforce to come back into the building using the 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% pattern used during the shut down. On what timeline that will happen is still unknown.
      • The Governor is recommending employers begin thinking through:
        • social distancing measures in the workplace and the extension of telecommuting for those who can and the most vulnerable on our staff;
        • patron interaction measures to minimize contact among customers and staff including ensuring staff have necessary protective supplies such as masks and gloves; and
        • having a “Proactive Infection Plan” to ensure protocols are in place should an employee develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus.
  • April 17th Director Briefing
    • Slides are attached to this message (link)
      • Paid Sick Leave questions can be sent to Casey at
    • Sierra: Reopening your library after COVID-19 – April 17, 2020
    • Next briefing: Friday, April 24
      • Please note: We are no longer requiring registration for COVID-19 Director Briefings, we will just post the log-in to this list.
  • Scams are on the rise – as an unprecedented number of workers have transitioned to working online, criminals have increased online scams, phishing attacks and more, getting quite create in many ways! It is likely a good time to remind your staff and trustees, as well as your community, to be on the look out.
  • With the new Executive Order going into effect at 8pm tonight that requires all people to wear masks when in public, your library can help get the word out about how to make a mask at home for the many people in your community who may not otherwise be able to obtain a mask. The CDC has provided both sew and no sew instructions:
A little levity to end this Friday update: if you haven’t already discovered “Some Good News” series on YouTube I highly recommend it. I find it helps to counteract the tough news we are following each day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020 |5:07pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. Just a reminder to please register for the Directors Briefing scheduled for Friday, April 17th, in addition to answers to frequently asked questions we’ve received over the last week we’ll be doing an intro to Paid Sick Leave in the context of COVID-19 and a review of the Sierra: Reopening your library after COVID-19 documentation.
  2. Absentee Ballots & Library Votes: Executive Order 202.15 temporarily suspends Section 8-400 of NYS Election Law to enable absentee ballots to be issued for “temporary illness” out of concerns about the contraction of COVID-19 at voting locations for any votes held until June 23. Please note that ELN 8-400 applies to: “…any village election conducted by the board of elections, primary election, special election, general election or New York city community school board district or city of Buffalo school district election…” I have submitted a formal request to the State Librarian to request that the State Education Department issue guidance that would extend the clear intent of this EO to school district library votes and 259 votes.
  3. Today the State Library confirmed that the timeline for the State Aid for Library Construction program remains unchanged so if you think this might be the year your library applies please plan to attend the April 23rd MHLS webinar: Applying for Funds Through the State Aid for Library Construction Program
  4. There are multiple dates for a new webinar from the Small Business Administration that will explain the five difference programs they are administering to help businesses and non-profits through COVID-19. To register:

Thursday, April 9, 2020 |4:37pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Temporary Remote Access to Ancestry for all MHLS Member Libraries: Thanks to Laurie Shedrick, MHLS Assistant Director and Technology Operations Manager, all patrons of all member libraries can now benefit from the recent announcement that ProQuest will provide public libraries with temporary remote access to Ancestry Library Edition through April 30, 2020
    • Proquest is requiring that “secure, patron authentication on the library’s website must already exist in order to obtain remote access.  Examples of secure authentication methods include dedicated IP addresses (must be static), barcode, referring URL and EZProxy.  Username/password authentication and other less secure methods cannot be supported for patron remote access.” This has been provided by the Mid-Hudson Library System with the cooperation of Proquest.
    • “For library staff remote access, ProQuest will provide a private, single username and password login for up to 10 employees upon request.  Larger staff requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  Care must be exercised by library management and staff to prevent abuse of the login credentials.” Libraries must request this directly through Proquest
    • Public information about the key differences between Ancestry Library Edition and (the consumer edition) can be found at
    • Ancestry will evaluate the need monthly and will adjust the access dates accordingly.
  • W.B. Mason reports they are about to received a huge shipment of hand sanitizer. While they were unable to offer us a deal for a group purchase we thought you’d appreciate the heads up that if you order now they can deliver in 2-3 weeks.
  • Special District and 414 libraries, if you haven’t already received or requested your tax funds from the municipality that serves as the taxing authority in your situation my advice is to be sure to do so. As per Education Law 259, section 1: “All moneys received from taxes or other public sources for library purposes shall be kept as a separate library fund by the treasurer of the municipality…shall be paid over to the treasurer of such library or cooperative library system upon the written demand of its trustees.”
  • For libraries with construction projects begun or about to begin: Empire State Development has upgraded its guidance on determining whether or not a construction project is “essential”:
  • For libraries using Zoom for programming purposes and meeting: Please be advised of a new phrase: “zoombombing” and how best to protect your programs and meetings:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 |4:54pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  • Director Briefing Schedule
    • A reminder that this week’s Director Briefing on April 10th is canceled since we just had the DA meeting yesterday.
    • At our Director Briefing on April 17th in addition to general announcements and answers to frequently asked questions that have emerged since this week, Casey will do an overview of the intersections of the state and federal COVID-19 paid sick leave legislation with NYS Paid Family Leave and Family Medical Leave Act issues and Laurie will provide a more in-depth review of the Sierra and Delivery Steps for Reopening your libraries once we have the greenlight to do so.  Please register in advance for this event.
    • We have added two new dates for Director Briefings, please register for these events:
  • CARES Act
    • We have A LOT of new resources to help you understand the various programs available through the CARES Act on our COVID-19 Resources page – there is a new CARES Act section under the Administrative Resources tab. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are two places libraries are seeing a match when their operating revenues are threatened to such a degree that staff layoffs are on the table (PPP) and $10,000 “loan advances” (EIDL) – neither of which would need to be repaid if certain conditions are met.
    • Payroll Protection Program: In my assessment of which libraries would most likely be in need of financial assistance from this program I identified those libraries most economically vulnerable in our current situation:
      • Association & Municipal Public Libraries
        • With no public vote in place at all
        • With a public vote in place that does not secure enough funds to meet current levels of operating expenses

These are the libraries where staff layoffs are most likely given predicted shortfalls in their funding. This analysis does not mean that you cannot apply if this is not your situation, only that you should closely examine if you truly need to given the high demand for these funds for businesses and nonprofits that are suffering extreme financial hardship during this time. A reminder that the PPP funds are going FAST so if you think this is something your  library needs to look into give your bank a call and consider working with your accountant to get an application in.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 |8:31am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The newest Executive Order, issued yesterday (EO 202.14), has extended the EO 202.1 suspension of certain aspects of the Open Meetings Law until May 7, 2020.

The language is here:

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law, do hereby continue the suspensions and modifications of law, and any directives, not superseded by a subsequent directive, made by Executive Order 202 and each successor Executive Order to 202, for thirty days until May 7, 2020, except as limited below.”

I have confirmed this interpretation with the NYS Committee on Open Government’s staff.

Monday, April 6, 2020 |4:57pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. We have extended the temporary suspension of MHLS Delivery and ILL Services to April 29th in line with the Governor’s latest announcement.  If your closed dates have changed since the last time you let us know, please use this online form to update your closure dates and don’t forget to put a ticket in to to change your closed dates.
  2. Given that we are holding an online DA meeting tomorrow we will cancel the April 10 Director Briefing. Log-in info for the DA meeting will be sent to those registered tomorrow morning.
  3. Open Meeting Law (OML) Adjustments
    1. While there are rumors the April 11th date will be extended we have not seen that in writing yet.
    2. The Committee on Open Government has issued their first advisory opinions on the Executive Order related to OML:
  4. New recorded webinar available to explain the federal paid sick leave act – Webinar: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)  |   Webinar Slides (PDF)

Help Get the Word Out!:

Friday, April 3, 2020 | 5:20pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Three items to wrap up our week with:

1) Payroll Protection Program: Association libraries that heavily rely on fundraising to cover operation costs: You will want to quickly get up to speed on the Payroll Protection Program through the CARES Act. Funds will be distributed on a “first come, first served” basis. It is recommended you work quickly with an eligible bank to get your application in. Please ensure you are applying for the right program, the PPP is the one which if you spend the loan on payroll and retain staff it converts into a grant you don’t need to pay back. Some libraries are working with their accountant to help with the application process, extra expert advice at this stage could be very helpful! Other types of libraries may also feel they are eligible and that may very well be. If you need help thinking through this issue let us know but if you have guaranteed revenue thanks to a budget vote that covers payroll and prevents the threat of layoffs at your library it is unlikely.

2) Annual Report Guidance Issued: The State Library issued guidance on counting attendance for online programs and service hours during this episode of the pandemic for the purposes of the annual report to the state. If you have any questions about what you read below please contact Casey (

Counting Virtual Programs and Attendance

The Annual Report for Public and Association Libraries currently asks for the number of programs and program attendance by age group (children, young adults, and adults). Currently the definitions, which are Federal definitions, do not include virtual programs. The State Library encourages libraries to collect data on the number of live virtual programs and live virtual program attendance, and also data on recorded virtual programs and recorded virtual program attendance, whether offered through the library’s Facebook page, or the library’s web site, or through some other platform.

The State Library recommends that virtual programming data be collected separately from data collected about physical face-to-face programs. Data about live virtual programs should be recorded separately from data about recorded virtual programs. As the State Library gets more guidance from IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) about counting live and recorded virtual programs and program attendance, we will share this information with library systems/libraries.

Collecting data about virtual programs will enable libraries to report this important program activity data to their governing boards, the community and also share the data with researchers in future surveys.

Counting Hours Open

The State Library has also received questions as to how libraries should report data about “Hours Open” for 2020. During the past few difficult weeks, some libraries continued to provide limited services for the public even though the Library Building was closed. The question received was: “Should these hours of limited services be reported under HOURS OPEN?”

The current definition for HOURS OPEN is: “This is the number of annual public service hours for each outlet only. Include the actual hours open for public service. For bookmobiles, count only the hours during which the bookmobile is open to the public. Minor variations in public service hours need not be included. Extensive hours closed to the public due to natural disasters or other events should be excluded from the count even if the staff is scheduled to work.”

This means counting only those hours that libraries are FULLY open to the public.

Again, as with Virtual Programs, libraries that offered limited services are encouraged to keep a separate record tracking the hours when the Library was closed to the public, but the Library offered limited services at the Library Building such as curbside delivery, a drive-up window or lobby only services. This data may be used in future reports to governing boards, to the local community and also to share with researchers in future surveys.

3) Don’t forget to register for Tuesday’s Directors Association Meeting.

Monday, March 30, 2020 | 12:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The latest Executive Order (202.13) contains three items I wanted to be sure all have seen, these are in effect through April 28, 2020 – while the first two do not apply to all member libraries I think it is important to track any and all language related to elections, petitions and, for the first time!, LIBRARIES:
  • …Circulation, filing, and collection of any designating petitions, or independent nominating petitions for any office that would otherwise be circulated or filed pursuant to the Election Law, Education Law or any other consolidated law for any office commencing March 31, 2020 are hereby postponed…
  • …Any school board, library board, or village election scheduled to take place in April or May of 2020 is hereby postponed until at least June 1, 2020, and subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting for such elections…
  • …By virtue of Executive Orders 202.3, 202.4, 202.5, 202.6, 202.7, 202.8, 202.10, 202.11 which closed or otherwise restricted public or private businesses or places of public accommodation, all such Executive Orders shall be continued, provided that the expiration dates of such Executive Orders shall be aligned, such that all in-person business restrictions will be effective until 11:59 p.m. on April 15, 2020, unless later extended by future Executive Orders…

Friday, March 27, 2020 | 12:00pm

Just a few items to wind down the week with:

  1. MHLS
    1. March 30: Sierra Lunchtime Webinar – Patron Data Entry & how patron records are used in Sierra
    2. March 31: Sierra Lunchtime Webinar – Item Data Entry & how item information affects loan rules
    3. April 1:
      1. Sierra Lunchtime Webinar – Basic Create Lists
      2. COVID-19 Trustee Briefing
    4. April 2:
      1. Online Programs When Your Library is Closed Webinar
      2. Sierra Lunchtime Webinar – Sierra Data Entry: How brief is too brief?
      3. COVID-19 Director Briefing
    5. April 3: Circulation 101 Webinar
  2. New York:
    1. Guidance issued on New York Paid Family Leave COVID-19: (don’t worry, if you feel like you aren’t  up to speed on this topic yet, everyone feels that way – we are working to get expert advice and summary documentation together for you)
    2. “Non-Essential” Construction Paused:
    3. Governor Cuomo has laid out a very stark picture for what to expect in the NYS Budget which is likely to pass on April 1. Cuts are coming. No doubt. He is proposing a rolling schedule to update revenue projections as the year progresses which could improve (or not) our budget as this crisis and the aftermath unfolds. This is not good news for the library community.

2. Federal:

  1. CARES Act
      1. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) today announced that the President has signed the CARES Act, which designates $50 million in coronavirus response funding for IMLS. The emergency investment allocated to IMLS will enable libraries and museums to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including by expanding digital network access, purchasing Internet accessible devices, and providing technical support services to their communities. Stay tuned for more info.
      2. The bill lowers the amounts that employers must pay for paid sick and family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (enacted March 19) to the amounts covered by the refundable payroll tax credits (don’t worry, if you feel like you aren’t  up to speed on this topic yet, everyone feels that way – we are working to get expert advice and summary documentation together for you)
      3. For 501c3 libraries and Friends Groups: there is a charitable giving incentive in CARES that will provide an above-the-line deduction for total charitable contributions of up to $300
      4. For 501c3 libraries who fundraise for a SIGNIFICANT portion of your operating budget and are taking a hit on your fundraising efforts due to COVID-19 – you will want to pay attention to info coming out about the CARES Act, there may be a way to receive funds or a payroll tax credit to help with operations costs. Stay tuned.
No doubt, more info is coming on all of these items and we will do our best to synthesize it for you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 | 5:50pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Two action orientation announcements today:

  1. In consultation with the leadership of the Directors Association and MHLS Board we will extend the temporary suspension of MHLS Delivery & ILL Services through April 19th, 2020 in alignment with the NYS Executive Order 202.8.
    1. A reassessment of this date will be undertaken the week of April 13th.
  2. All MHLS Member Library Directors are asked to please use this online form to update their closure and service plans.


  • The election issue for school district public libraries and 259 vote libraries is still being hashed out in Albany. Early signs indicate they are exploring a few things such as the increased use of absentee ballots as well as consolidating votes on to the school ballot for those library votes held separately. A delay of vote dates is also being discussed. Please stay tuned.
  • Libraries with open construction projects may be hearing from Casey as the state has asked that we check in on libraries whose projects are due June 30, 2020 and those who were required to start by March 13, 2020.
  • Soon you will hear about the promotion of a new site called which invites libraries and cultural institutions across the state to list online events they are holding during this crisis. We are working with the state to get your log-in information so you don’t each have to request it. We hope to have that soon.


Please continue to use the ticket system ( ) for your requests for assistance with Sierra. Your subject line should contain your library’s name and the purpose of the ticket. Please note: all batch updates need to come from the library director.

Monday, March 23, 2020 | 8:43am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

The text of Executive Order 202.8 is now available:

“...I hereby issue the following directives for the period from the date of Executive Order through April 19, 2020:

  • The provisions of Executive Order 202.6 are hereby modified to read as follows: Effective on March 22 at 8 p.m.: All businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely utilize. Each employer shall reduce the in-person workforce at any work locations by 100% no later than March 22 at 8 p.m. Any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions shall not be subject to the in-person restrictions...” source:

Just a reminder to use the MHLS Ticket System ( to put in a ticket to extend your due dates if you are choosing to match your closing dates to the date in the executive order.

Friday, March 20, 2020 | 5:44pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

NY State on PAUSE

The Governor has issued guidance on Essential Services under the “New York State on Pause” Executive Order:

Thursday, March 19, 2020 | 3:00pm

MHLS Director Briefing (online meeting): recording now available.

Thursday, March 19, 2020  |  9:08am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Guidance on upcoming budget votes for libraries that may be impacted by the current situation:

School District Public Libraries

  • In the absence of guidance from the state:
    • If you hold your own vote: Education Law 260 section 7 allows for your votes to be held after April 1st but before June 30th
    • If your vote is held in conjunction with the school district’s vote you will defer to their election officials
    • At this time, I would recommend you familiarize yourselves with the absentee ballot process.

259 School District Votes

  • In the absence of guidance from the state:
    • Given that no 259 libraries in our system hold their own votes, you will defer to the school district election officials and will want to connect with them so they keep you in their communication loop.
    • At this time, I would recommend you re-familiarize yourselves with the absentee ballot process.

414 Votes

  • In the absence of guidance from the state:
    • Please plan for your petition process to follow the timeline found in the new edition of Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Using the Municipal Ballot Option in Education Law 259(1)(b) to Obtain Sustainable Funding for Your Library [Third Edition (2020)]
      • I’d like to send out a BIG thank you to the MHLS member library directors who helped to review and provide advice on this new edition!
        • Steve Cook, Starr Library
        • Carol Donick, Kent Pubic Library
        • AnnaLee Dragon, Kinderhook Memorial Library
        • Carol Fortier, Beekman Public Library
        • Elizabeth Potter, Phoenicia Library
        • Daniela Pulice, Pleasant Valley Free Library

Special District Public Libraries

  • In the absence of guidance from the state:
    • Your legislation sets the dates of your election. If you have a range of dates you have options. If you have a specific date that falls within the call for “social distancing” or a “shelter in place” order you do not. You will be subject to any guidance or suspension of Election Law announced by the State.
      • There is a high likelihood that guidance from the state may not be specific to special districts which will undoubtedly create confusion – you will need the guidance of a lawyer to help you navigate this should that transpire.
    • Please ensure your absentee ballot process is solid and you have a clear plan, created in conjunction with your board, for communicating with the public about your vote timeline.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020  |  4:42pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Today was a historic day as 100% of our libraries now plan to close; this was the last day of MHLS Delivery through the end of the month and at Governor Cuomo’s most recent press conference he announced a directive calling for work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20th.

We wanted to touch base on a few fronts here as today winds down:

  1. Be sure to read the Governor’s press release from this afternoon, it contains the following information relevant to libraries:
    • Governor Cuomo will issue an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent.
    • The Governor and Legislature have an agreement on a bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus.
    • Governor Cuomo signed an executive order directing all schools in New York to close by Wednesday, March 18 for two weeks ending April 1.
    • New York State is waiving all park fees in state, local and county parks. ß great item to be promoting through your social media channels
  2. Tech Ops updates:
  3. Delivery Ops updates:
    • Today was our last planned day of delivery until the end of the month. Extra boxes were distributed accordingly for your use to process returns.
    • As stated we will be evaluating whether or not to restart delivery on April 1st next Thursday. In addition, in light of director reports about how they are managing there service levels at this time (whether or not they have staff in the building or not or are providing curbside service or not) we are monitoring “In Transit” items through Sierra to assess whether or not a pick-up/delivery before the end of the temporary suspension may help mitigate the volume that would be awaiting us upon the lifting of the delivery suspension. We will keep you posted on that front.
  4. MHLS Director Briefing: COVID-19tomorrow @3pm: Laurie, Casey and I will be online tomorrow at 3pm to ensure everyone is up-to-speed on this fast-paced news week, we will chat about MHLS services, Open Meetings Law, 2020 Census, etc. as well as answer some common questions we’ve been getting If you’d like to join the call please register online and we’ll talk soon! I’ll record the session for anyone who cannot make it tomorrow.

As always, MHLS staff is working hard to keep ahead of emerging issues and respond to inquiries and requests from MHLS member libraries. Be sure to use the ticket system for all tech/Sierra/Encore related issues so we can manage your requests in a timely manner.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | 2:24pm

Laurie Shedrick, MHLS Assistant Director/Technology Operations Manager

Sierra & Encore Processes through Temporary Suspension of Delivery Services & Library Closures During the Pandemic

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 | 2:59pm

Laurie Shedrick, MHLS Assistant Director/Technology Operations Manager

E-Rate rules changes and extension: Lifeline Operations: Changes Regarding COVID-19

FCC announced temporary changes: Lifeline Recertification and Reverification Waived for 60 Days

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 | 2:02pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

In the News: “Macmillan Abandons Library E-book Embargo”

Monday, March 16, 2020  |  2:00pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

  1. At this point more than 80% of member libraries are closed or hours away from closure with clear signs more will be announced after emergency board meetings that are being held this evening.
    • FYI from NYS:
      • This afternoon at a press conference the Governor announced that groceries, gas stations, pharmacies and some other essential businesses will be allowed to remain open. The governor said he was also encouraging, but not yet ordering, other businesses to close at 8:00pm.
      • Please note that NYS has banned gatherings of more than 50 people.
  2. We are fast approaching 3:00pm when a systemwide block on holds will be turned on. Patrons will see a message on both the front of the online catalog alerting them to this as well as a message when they attempt to place a hold which let’s them know their request cannot be completed at this time and why. Laurie has been hard at work on documentation for you which you will have by Wednesday if not before.
  3. FYI: The WNYLRC “Ask the Lawyer” service has issued an answer to a question you too may have asked yourself: Can libraries, using public money, pay part-time staff if they are either forced to close due to the COVID-19 or if the employee is forced to self-quarantine?

Monday, March 16, 2020 | 12:41pm

Laurie Shedrick, MHLS Assistant Director/Technology Operations Manager

Our new Encore toolbar is in place! Patrons have more remote access than ever before, just when they need it!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

MHLS Action Plan for Delivery Services

In the face of the unprecedented spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the corresponding action by federal, state, county, local and library officials in the past week, the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS) will temporarily suspend holds and the delivery system this week.

This decision was developed in consultation with MHLS staff, the leadership of the MHLS Directors Association and the MHLS Board of Trustees. As you can imagine, this decision was not taken lightly. A combination of public health concerns as well as the logistic realities of our cooperative public library system call for this measure to support the majority of our libraries who have decided to suspend public services during this challenging time.

Suspension of Holds and Delivery Services to Member Libraries:

  1. Holds will be suspended effective 3:00pm Monday, March 16, 2020 for all libraries.
  2. Existing holds will also be suspended at this time, and will be unsuspended when delivery resumes.
  3. For member libraries who have notified MHLS staff of their intent to close on or before Monday, March 16, 2020 delivery will be suspended on Monday, March 16, 2020.
  4. Delivery will be suspended for all remaining member libraries effective Thursday, March 19, 2020. The last day of regular delivery will be Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
  5. Delivery Services will be suspended until at least Tuesday, March 31, 2020 with a reassessment of these services conducted by MHLS staff, the leadership of the MHLS Directors Association and the MHLS Board of Trustees by Friday, March 27, 2020.

Suspension of Interlibrary Loan (ILL):

  1. Materials ordered by member libraries from other libraries from outside of the Mid-Hudson Library System’s five county region will be suspended effectively Monday, March 16, 2020.
  2. Member libraries may return ILL materials to MHLS offices until delivery services are restored.

Guidance: MHLS will prepare and share guidance documentation regarding how member libraries should handle the suspension of delivery services relative to pre and post suspension of services.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Over the past 24 hours more than twenty libraries across the region took the unprecedented step to close their library facilities in the face of the declaration of national, state, and in some cases, county states of emergencies due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

To facilitate an orderly closure you will need our help, we recommend the following steps:

Things to think about before you start:

  • Will your staff be in the building?  Deliveries can still be dropped for a brief closure.
  • Will you be emptying your book drops?
  • Is someone available at your library for questions?
  • Is there a contact number while closed?
  • Will you check email and telephone messages?
  1. Close your library in the days closed table (instructions)Post information about your closing to your web page
    • Open a specific ticket if MHLS hosts your page including the information about dates, and other directions.
    • Provide options for patrons in the interim for holds, like freezing, change pickup location, or cancelling for a later date.
    • Suggest alternative eResources.  More information about our eResources is available in the admin section of You will need to let MHLS delivery staff  know of any changes to your delivery schedule.
      Steps: Reach Tom Finnigan  @ extension  244 or
  2. To stop new holds, request that MHLS edit your pickup location to “temporarily closed” in encore.  (see the image below) It is possible to drop your library from the list essentially, by moving it far down the list.  This will also show up on the transit slips.Steps: Open a ticket with
  3.  To stop requests from being sent to you for filling, we can place your collection in storage.Note: The process of checking in items will change this status back to checked in.
  4. Items currently out can be extended to your next open day.Steps: Open a ticket with

These instructions can also be found here: (Please note the table at the top is is our best effort of cross referencing your posts to the Director’s List, your web site and Facebeook pages. If anything is out of date please email Courtney at

Friday, March 13, 2020  |  5:35pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

As per Executive Order 202.1 issued today:  “Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, to the extent necessary to permit any public body to meet and take such actions authorized by the law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorizing such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed.”

This is in effect until April 11, 2020.

Friday, March 13, 2020  |  8:09am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

I know the past few days have been challenging as you’ve grappled with fast-paced news, issuance of guidance from various levels of government, and decision-making the face of something we’ve never seen before. I have spoken to more than half of our directors over the past 48 hours as you have made tough decisions and sought answers to inform those decisions. I just want to start off by saying how impressed I am, this isn’t easy and I know you are trying hard to do what is right for your communities.

An announcement:

  • MHLS is suspending all in-person continuing education and professional development events for the remainder of March. We will be either rescheduling events or converting them to online events. If you are registered for anything on the calendar during this period, expect to receive a direct message as to what the plan is for that event.


  • MHLS staff has been working hard to bolster our business continuity planning. We have been doing scenario testing of our plans in light of the uncertain predictions of what may happen. We have contingency plans for providing all core services from delivery, to tech support, to consulting and professional development services and all the technical assistance issues that cross-over/intersect with each of these areas. We are committed to supporting you through the weeks to come as best we can.
  • We have connected with each of our five county’s public health departments to offer help in connecting their information to the libraries in their county.
  • We have a regularly updated page of COVID-19 resources for you available at:
    • Recent additions include:
      • information from the US Department of Labor
      • a list of development questions to create a pandemic policy and sample pandemic policies
      • examples of statement to the public
  • There are two upcoming webinars that will likely be of interest to you:

Be well and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need assistance.

March 9, 2020 | 9:00am

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

Lots of new advice for libraries has come out since last week! Check out:

March 2, 2020 | 2:33pm

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Executive Director

A COVID-19 toolkit for librarians

Prepared by Sarah Holsted, Hospital Library Services Program Manager, Southeastern NY Library Resources Council

For front-line library workers

  1. Managing Stress and the Threat of Covid-19 from the Minnesota Dept of Health.
    Two-page PDF about recognizing personal signs of stress and providing strategies for coping.
  2. Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S. from the Scientific American.
    by Zeynep Tufekci on Feb 27, 2020
    Offers the perspective that “prepping” for Covid-19 is an altruistic activity that helps lessen the risk for our family and neighbors and describes basic preparations that have an impact.

For library workers to share with patrons

  1. Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) from the New York State Department of Health.
    Includes the state-wide hotline for information about Covid-19: 1-888-364-3065
    and data about Covid-19 cases in New York State and New York City.
  2. “Coronavirus Infections” information page from MedlinePlus.
    Provides a summary of the virus origins, details on prevention (handwashing!), and handouts for children and adults, plus links to statistics and a site de-bunking coronavirus myths.
    MedlinePlus is a website from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in the U.S., which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The site is free and has easy-to-understand Information in English and Spanish, with no advertising.
  3. Preventing Covid-19 Spread in Communities from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    Information about how to prepare for Covid-19 in different settings: at home, school, work, and in healthcare. Plus a page of handouts and posters for easy sharing

For library directors, operations managers

  1. Pandemic Preparedness from the American Library Association
    This page provides information about preparing for a pandemic, including library-specific policy suggestions. Also includes links to universal resources on pandemic education, prevention and preparation.
  2. Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19 from the World Health Organization
    This five-page document describes how businesses and employers can play a role in stopping the spread of COVID19 (novel coronavirus). It lists simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID19 in the workplace; things to consider when employers and employees travel; and getting a business ready in case COVID19 arrives in the community.

BONUS: “Covid-19 round-up” from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Contains links to databases maintained by the NLM plus links to other U.S. and international agencies monitoring and advising on Covid-19. My favorite database is Disaster Lit. (Public health emergency literature and information). International in scope, it contains updates and advice from the World Health Organization and the UK’s National Health Service.

Note: this is a developing situation, so please re-check the websites regularly for updated information.

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