CALS Phased Reopening Plan

What to Expect at Your CALS Library

CALS will begin partially re-opening in the manner that balances restoring library services to the community with minimizing the risk of COVID-19 to the public and staff. The library will abide by guidelines and recommendations of local, state, and federal officials and health agencies. The re-opening will be gradual and subject to modification based on evolving circumstances and availability of personal protection equipment (PPE), supplies, and staff.

Phase Reopening Plan Explained

Reopening Plan At-a-Glance

download a one-sheet description of the phased reopening plan

Phase One: March 13

The library is closed to the public, but some staff are working in the buildings. Social distancing is practiced by all staff at all times. Staff are required to wear facial coverings. Book drops are open and the staff is providing curb-side service, including book pickup, holds, requests, mobile printing, grab & go programming, and grab & go meals (not all services are available at all locations). Staff and volunteers are serving meals from 11-12:30 daily at four branches seven days a week. Staff develop and upload virtual programming. Staff are answering phones and providing assistance to the extent possible while the buildings are closed.

Staff work on procedures for safely quarantining returned items, based on IMLS and CDC data and best practices. With respect to the handling of returned materials, staff will wear gloves while emptying the book drop. The returned items will be stored in separate containers for each day’s batch of returned items. These will be quarantined for a minimum of 72 hours from the date the materials are removed from the book drop. Carts for re-shelving items should NOT be used with newly returned materials; these must be kept separated.

The following social distancing and sanitation procedures are in place. Six feet distance is required between people at all times. Face coverings are required. Employees must perform daily symptom assessment and stay home if symptomatic. Supervisors will immediately isolate any employee that develops symptoms at work and will ask them to seek medical care. Hourly handwashing, frequent disinfection of high-touch and high-contact areas, and staggered employee arrival and departure times are all required. To the extent possible, staff will reconfigure workstations to ensure six feet of separation. The staff will create a health questionnaire and a temperature-taking protocol to be used before staff enter the building. Staff will also keep a log of who is in the building at any given time to facilitate contact tracing in the event of a positive case. Ideally, they will divide staff into pods and implement rotating shifts. Operations staff are to ensure availability of at least three weeks of cleaning supplies.

Phase Two: May 26

The library remains closed to the public, but most staff are required to come to work in the buildings in planning for Phase Three and re-opening some buildings for some periods of the day. We need more people in the libraries starting May 26 in order to carry out the increase in services that are planned. Since libraries will be open, staff are generally expected to report to work. Staff with health risks or other circumstances or concerns which prevent them from working onsite should discuss these with their supervisor. Exceptions will be considered if the supervisor believes the employee can perform their work satisfactorily remotely. All services in Phase One continue. Scheduled appointments for research in the Roberts Library may occur.

Pilot project starts at Nixon Library for providing limited computer use by appointment. (to be extended to other branches starting June 1, or as soon as feasible). Computers will be set up in meeting spaces, vestibules, or other areas that do not offer access to the main part of the library and spaced six feet or more apart. If this area has its own entrance, it should be used. If not, it should be cordoned off with stanchions or caution tape to direct people to the area. Painter’s tape should be used to mark six-foot spacing in traffic areas. Bold signage will be placed at entrance doors and restroom doors, and rules for computer use will be posted in each area.

In the pilot project, staff will make computer reservations, with the number of reservations available each day dependent on staffing and space. In general, timeslots will be available between 9 am and 4 pm, with time in between to allow thorough cleaning. Each reservation will be two hours, limited to one per day per patron.

When booking computer reservations, staff should instruct patrons that:

  • User must be at least sixteen years of age.
  • User must wear a mask or face covering while at the library.
  • Up to two people may collaborate on a computer. No more than two people may enter.
  • If users need earbuds/headphones, they must bring their own. No use of computer speakers is permitted.
  • Maximum reservation length is two hours, and only one reservation is permitted at a time.
  • User must arrive within fifteen minutes of their scheduled start time.
  • User must agree that the environment will include people talking, staff answering questions, etc., and should not expect a completely quiet atmosphere.
  • User must wash or sanitize their hands upon entering and leaving the library.
  • User must answer “no” to the following questions:
    1. Have you or anyone in your household been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19?
    2. Have you been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19?
    3. Have you or anyone in your household traveled out of the country or into a COVID hotspot in the past 14 days?
    4. Have you or anyone in your household had a fever, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing in the last 24 hours?

All staff members participating in the pilot will wear masks and gloves. One staff member will serve as monitor/host for booking and controlling access to and from the building. The staff member will then direct the patron to their assigned computer and will alert them when their time is about to expire. At least 30 minutes will be blocked off between appointments so that the staff member may clean and sanitize the computer stations at the beginning of the day and after each session.

In addition to the social distancing and sanitation procedures from Phase One, the following will be added: Place hand sanitizers in high-contact locations. Assign a staff member to wipe down frequently-touched surfaces. Staff and vendors will be required to log their date/time of entry and exit to and from the building by filling out a health screening form to be found at entryways and exits, that includes these questions:

  1. Have you or anyone in your household been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19?
  2. Have you been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19?
  3. Have you or anyone in your household traveled out of the country or into a COVID hotspot in the past 14 days?
  4. Have you or anyone in your household had a fever, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing in the last 24 hours?

Phase Three: June 8

The library will be open on a reduced hours schedule and offering additional limited services. Some branches may open, for example, on M-W-F while others open T-Th-Sat. The emphasis will be on adding access to library collections. The library will require patrons to wear masks or facial covers and to maintain social distancing at all times. The library will offer disposable masks for those who want to enter the library but do not have a mask or facial covering. The service desks will have acrylic sneeze shields. Staff will be supported by CALS security and contract security to enforce the social distancing and use of masks or cloth facial covering.

Hours of operation during this phase will depend on patron needs, staff availability, and the ability to enforce the safety protocols inside the buildings.

Limiting the number of people in branch spaces: Based on the size and configuration, each building will determine a maximum number of patrons at a time who may be in the building to facilitate social distancing. Once the reduced capacity is determined for each accessible building, the library will reserve half of that capacity in each branch for “walk ups” and half for appointments made in advance. This is intended for patron convenience but also to minimize the number of people standing in line outside the building. A specific staff person will be designated at all times to monitor patron count. The maximum amount of time a patron (or group of patrons) will be allowed to spend in the branch will initially be one hour.

Patrons entering the branch will check in with a staff person where they will be asked screening questions and issued a tag that will clearly state their exit time. Patrons must agree to wear a mask or they will not be issued a tag and will not be allowed in the building. If patron refuses to wear a mask and creates a disturbance staff should call CALS security or police.

Staff will keep a log of patrons entering and leaving the building. The log will be used solely to manage and monitor reservations; or to aid in contact tracing if needed.

No children under 16 may be allowed inside the building without an adult 18+. Parents and caregivers are expected to keep their children with them at all times and discourage children from touching surfaces as much as possible. (Additional guidance needed setting expectations for parents and caregivers.)

Limited services include browsing, faxing, scanning, printing, and photocopying. These services may be available at limited locations or by appointment only. Staff will wear PPE and wipe down all surfaces in between transactions. All participants must remain six feet apart. Notary services are under consideration. Study and meeting rooms will not be available.

In addition to social distancing and sanitation procedures from Phases One and Two, the following will be added: Remove some furniture to assist with sanitizing and social distancing, only furniture which can be easily sanitized will be used. Clean and stock restrooms more frequently. Encourage self-checkout, including having support staff available to help with kiosks.

All branches will set aside hours for patrons in high risk populations including people 65 years and older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions.

Retail spaces: The gallery and bookstore may resume business during this phase subject to limitations on the amount of people allowed in at the same time.

Circulation of materials: Staff will wash or sanitize their hands before and after checking books out to each patron. Self-check machines will be wiped down after each patron uses them. Materials will be returned to the library via book drops only (external or internal), and staff will follow the book drop protocol developed in Phase 1. Items pulled from the shelves by patrons but not checked out should be quarantined for 72 hours.

CALS will step up cleaning in the high use areas but patrons will be alerted that we do not have the ability to clean the restrooms after each use. Drinking fountains will not be available to patrons and will be covered with plastic bags.

Drinking fountains will not be available to patrons and will be covered with plastic bags.

Outdoor programming will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Phase Four: To Be Determined

The library will reopen meeting rooms and allow in-person programming based on guidelines from public officials. Screening and monitoring will still take place, but more people will be allowed in the buildings. Furniture and computers will be added as needed.

Library will maintain effort to wipe high-touch and high-contact points regularly.

Phase Five: To Be Determined

Branches will resume operations 6-7 days a week and for their normal hours prior to the pandemic.

Branch Reopening Schedule

Libraries will open with limited hours for browsing or using the library; reservations and walk-ups accepted for 1-hour visits. Computer use by reservation only (call branch for details).

9-10 a.m.: ages 65+ and at-risk patrons; 1-5 p.m.: ages 16+ (or with an adult)


Fletcher Library (T/Th/S)
Nixon Library (T/Th/S)
Rooker Library (M/W/F)
Milam Library* (M/W/F)
*open from 9-11 a.m. for ages 65+ and at-risk patrons


Dee Brown Library (T/Th/S)
Maumelle Library (T/Th/S)
McMath Library (M/W/F)
Roberts Library* (M/W/F)
Sanders Library (M/W/F)
*open from 9-11 a.m. for ages 65+ and at-risk patrons


Children’s Library (M/W/F)
Thompson Library (T/Th/S)
Williams Library (T/Th/S)


Terry Library (M/W/F)
Main Library* (M/W/F)
*open for reserved computer use only beginning Monday, June 1.