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LACUNY Statement on COVID-19

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 12:25 PM | Roxanne Shirazi (Administrator)

The Library Association of CUNY strongly supports statements from the Council of Chief Librarians and Interim Dean Thistlethwaite urging the Chancellor to close all CUNY libraries immediately (see below). Our library colleagues need to be safe and to practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible. CUNY needs a uniform approach to this public health crisis. We will continue to collectively document and make public the status of library facilities in an effort to better protect and inform our community. 

LACUNY membership deserves a workplace that values health and safety above all. 

On behalf of the LACUNY Executive Council,

In solidarity, 

Ian McDermott 

LACUNY President 

Coordinator of Library Instruction, Associate Professor

LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

March 17, 2020

Dear Chancellor Matos Rodríguez, Executive Vice Chancellor Cruz, and Associate University Provost Maruca,

The Council of Chief Librarians writes to express our grave concern regarding the decision to keep library spaces at the City University of New York open during the COVID-19 crisis. We understand better than anyone the critical role that libraries play in teaching and learning at CUNY, from broadband Internet access to desktop computers, laptop loans, and circulating library collections. However, in a public health crisis that relies on all New Yorkers to practice social distancing in order to quell the spread of COVID-19, libraries must play a different role. As gathering spaces for CUNY students and faculty, keeping our buildings open risks the lives of all of us, including the committed library workers who interact with patrons in our library spaces. Each one of these contacts increases the risk of community spread of this virus.

We urge the Chancellor to direct all campus libraries to close, following the current recommendations of New York City public health officials. We are committed to continuing to provide high quality remote research services and access to online research resources. Keeping CUNY students, faculty, and staff away from our physical spaces is the best way to ensure continuity of those services in the coming days and weeks.

We look forward to your response.

Maura Smale, Chair, Council of Chief Librarians

Polly Thistlethwaite, Interim University Dean for Library Services

March 18, 2020

Dear Chancellor Matos Rodríguez and Executive Vice Chancellor Cruz,

The Council of Chief Librarians writes to express our ongoing and urgent concern at the lack of a central direction from CUNY leadership regarding the shift to an online-only remote library during this COVID-19 crisis. We have not received a response to our email dated March 16. 

Physical library spaces must remain inaccessible to library workers and all of our patrons during this public health crisis. Keeping these spaces open risks adding to the active community spread of this virus. As a statement in support of library closures issued by the American Library Association notes:  

“Libraries are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities. Keeping libraries open at this time has the potential to harm communities more than help.”

We are struggling to respond to concerns from CUNY library faculty and staff and the communities we serve about the status of library buildings. Please help us play our critical role in preserving the health of all New Yorkers. We are committed to providing a high level of services to our communities via robust remote library collections and research services for as long as this crisis persists. A central directive to close the buildings will allow us all to return to this urgent work. 

We look forward to your response. 

Maura Smale, Chair, Council of Chief Librarians

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