Best Practices for Ohio’s Public Libraries under COVID-19

As you navigate this unprecedented pandemic, the Ohio Library Council has put together an outline/roadmap of best practices for reopening your building(s) to staff and customers while ensuring a safe environment. Not all of Ohio’s public libraries are the same. This information is meant to serve as a guide and all templates can be customized to fit the needs of your library.

Best Practices and Roadmap for Reopening Ohio’s Public Libraries

Important Notes

  • Read the best practices and roadmap for reopening carefully. These include the requirements from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) that you MUST follow in order to reopen.
  • Large/Mass gatherings are still prohibited. There is a limit of 10 people unless it is expressly exempted.
  • Library employees should wear facial coverings/masks unless one of the exceptions apply.
  • Libraries can recommend or require patrons to wear facial coverings/masks unless one of the exceptions apply.
  • Maintain the required 6 feet social distancing guidelines.
  • Limit the maximum capacity of your facility to 50% of the fire code. You may restrict capacity even further based on the layout of your building to ensure social distancing.
  • Clean and sanitize workplaces throughout the day and at the close of business.
  • Quarantine returned materials for 48 to 72 hours.
  • Library Directors should talk with their fellow directors in the county to share plans for reopening.

NOTE: Please read through the outline and roadmap carefully BEFORE utilizing tools and templates below.

Face Mask/Facial Covering

  • Effective, July 23 at 6 p.m. – residents of ALL counties in Ohio are required to wear a face mask while out in public.
  • General guidance (PDF)
  • Face Shield FAQ (PDF)

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.


Ohio Department of Health
The Ohio Department of Health has created a number of COVID-19 posters and signs that can be downloaded from (also available in Spanish).


Healthy habits
We all know we should wash our hands often and for at least 20 seconds, but when we get busy – a quick reminder is helpful. Be sure to post hygiene recommendations from the CDC and Ohio Department of Health around the library, especially in breakrooms and restrooms.

Safe Handling of Materials

At this time, it is recommended that returned materials be quarantined for 48-72 hours.

REALM Research Project  

A website is available to support the research partnership between Battelle, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and OCLC that will determine how long the virus survives on surfaces and how library materials should be handled to mitigate exposure. REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is designed to distribute science-based information and recommended practices to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and the public. The REALM site will serve as the primary source for program results and resources.

REALM Research Results

  • Round 1 test results show virus undetectable on common library materials after three days. (6/22/20)
  • Round 2 test results indicate that a longer quarantine time for certain types of paper materials, such as magazines and Children’s board books, may be required. (7/20/20)
  • Round 3 test results show that a slightly longer quarantine time for plastic-based materials may be required. (8/18/20)
  • Round 4 test results show that stacking items keeps the virus alive on materials longer than if they are unstacked. (9/3/20)
  • Round 5 test results show after eight days of quarantine, the virus was still detected on leather and synthetic leather materials. (10/15/20)
  • Round 6 test results show after two days, the virus was not detectable on the brass and marble. After six days, the virus was not detected on the glass, laminate, and powder-coated steel. (11/19/20)
  • Round 7 and 8 test results compare the effect of colder and warmer temperatures on the attenuation rate of the virus on materials previously tested at ambient room temperatures. (2/11/21)

Based on the latest research, the OLC is recommending that returned materials be quarantined for 2-3 days.