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A chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries

Statement of Support for Closing Academic Libraries During COVID-19 Crisis

March 18, 2020

The Board of ACRL-WA believes that the COVID-19 crisis requires an organized, thoughtful response at every level of governance, from our federal, state, and local governments to our national and local library organizations. This is not a moment that can be met with piecemeal, fractured solutions; in academic libraries, limited opening hours and enforcing physical distancing with signage will not alleviate the burden on the most vulnerable library workers and our most underserved patrons. 

On March 17, 2020 the Executive Board of the American Library Association published a statement supporting the closure of libraries during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Today, the Board of Directors of ACRL published a statement affirming the statement of the ALA Executive Board, in which they called for the closure of in-person services in academic libraries. 

The ACRL-Washington Board supports the statements from ALA, ACRL, and yesterday’s statement from ACRL-Oregon. We agree that academic libraries should be closed for the following reasons:

  • Libraries are unable to practice physical distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. It is impossible to require all library users and workers to remain six feet apart, to limit library use to 50 or fewer patrons at any time, and to have sanitary public surfaces.
  • Academic libraries are large, public spaces, even if those spaces are restricted to the academic community. Keeping these spaces open creates the false impression that it is safe to gather there.
  • In a public health crisis, academic libraries cannot be the safety net for our most vulnerable student populations. Higher education administrators who plan to support students without computer or Internet access at home by asking them to use the library on campus are putting marginalized students at the greatest risk of infection.

The Board of ACRL-WA supports the following:

  • Closing all academic library spaces in accordance with CDC directives.

  • Allowing and encouraging academic library workers, including student and hourly employees, to work from home. If work cannot be done remotely, all library workers should be paid regular payroll via administrative leave or similar policies.

  • Ensuring academic library workers maintain regular health insurance coverage during any period of closure, as well as state-required benefits such as sick leave. 

  • Encouraging vendors who provide services to academic libraries do their part to support libraries, library workers, and students by providing easy access to resources and services. 

    This is the time to take the initiative and reduce the spread of the pandemic to our library workers and patrons.  We encourage higher education leaders in Washington state to value and protect library workers in these uncertain times by closing academic libraries.

    In solidarity,

    ACRL-Washington Board

    Reed Garber-Pearson


    Madeline Mundt

    Immediate Past President

    Elizabeth Brown

    Vice President/President Elect

    Lydia Bello


    Ahniwa Ferrari


    Jen Saulnier

    Chelsea Nesvig


    Zoe Fisher

    Web Manager

    Kael Moffat

    Communications Manager

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