18 July 2020
Reopening of the National Library of China
The National Library of China was closed from 24 January 2020 to 12 May 2020, for about 109 days.
Reviewing the work during this period, it can be divided into three stages:
The first stage focused on epidemic prevention and control and wedid our best to ensure the health and safety of employees and readers.
For the second stage, we coordinated the epidemic prevention and control and library development. We also made all preparations for the reopening phase.
The National Library of China issued the Work Plan on Coordinating and Promoting the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 Epidemic and Library Development on March 4, based on the guidelines from the supervising ministries, which clearly clarified the requirements for the overall planning and promotion of epidemic prevention and library development.
In order to continue providing online services and remote working, each department made arrangements for their key staff to return to work and prepare for the reopening.
The National Library of China formulated a detailed plan for the opening service, such as stocking up anti-epidemic supplies, preparation of space, facilities and documentation resources, testing the library service system, and briefing to staff.
The third stage focused on implementing the safe and orderly reopening of the library.
The level one response mechanism for public health emergencies in Beijing was adjusted to level two from 30 April 2020. Major scenic spots and museums were opened. The National Library of China also actively prepared for the reopening.
The first phase involved the formulation of the Detailed Plan for the Reopening of the Library. Arrangements were made for the reopening of the library, such as setting up opening areas and service space, personnel flow restriction measures, reviewing opening hours, service processes, anticipating the common issues and challenges, and planning for collection disinfection. With the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the National Library of China announced the reopening on 8 May 2020 through various news media and the official website of the National Library, the National Digital Library mobile application, WeChat public account, mobile portal, Weibo and other channels.
The second phase was to organize a rehearsal exercise. The Rehearsal Plan for Orderly Reopening of the Library included detailing arrangements of preparation work division, simulated scenarios and personnel placement. The National Library of China organized more than 100 employees of positions including front-line services, security and logistics on the afternoon of 8 May 2020, to carry out a full-process actual simulation rehearsal for the various service scenarios and emergencies, focusing on readers’ entrance check, activities in reading rooms and service spots, and orderly exit of the library, as well as testing the admission reservation system and book reservation system. After the rehearsal, the whole process was comprehensively summarized, and the follow-up process was further improved and detailed measures were taken.
The third phase was to carefully deploy epidemic prevention, control and emergency management. The Emergency Plan for Reopening was issued on 11 May 2020 to standardize readers’ service during the epidemic and the handling of emergencies in health and epidemic prevention. Front-line staff could go to work after passing the daily temperature test. Masks and gloves must be worn throughout the service process. Readers must check body temperature at the entrance. For readers with abnormal high temperature, the shortest path and the minimum personnel contact should be immediately practised to help him/her to the isolation room for temperature re-check and other treatments procedure. The medical staff should deal with the emergency response procedures, register the relevant information, and immediately arrange to disinfect the affected space. If the situation is serious, the relevant channels and service spaces would be immediately closed to staff and the public and would be reopened after being disinfected to ensure safety. At the same time, experts from the health and epidemic prevention agencies would supervise on-site guidance.
2. Situation after the orderly reopening
After thorough planning and preparation, the library officially resumed some onsite services on May 12. The general principle of reservations and admission limits will apply and the specific arrangements are:
(1) Library Space Opened
The area opened to the public is in the South Area of the main library. Because of the venue ventilation and service layout, the library decided to open 20 service spots including reader registration, reading and loan service, consulting service and photocopy service, providing 300 reading seats with distancing measures. The space of more than 9,200 square meters, accounted for 21.72% of the total service area of the library. Part of the services in the North Area and the Ancient Books Library are integrated and provided in the open area above.
(2) Opening Hours
The library opening hours are from 9 am to 12 am, and from 1 pm to 4 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday, with one hour closure at noon for disinfection.
(3) Service Methods
Reservation and admission limits are implemented to control the number of readers entering the library and reading rooms and readers should make real-name reservations through WeChat or telephone at least one day in advance to get reservation codes or numbers. The daily limit for onsite readers is limited to 1200 people (600 people in the morning and 600 people in the afternoon), and this limit is dynamically adjusted according to the epidemic prevention and control situation.
The loan service for Chinese and foreign language books changes to close stack and the staff will pick up the documents readers reserved in advance. A book return center set up in the Wenjin Hall provides manual book return service while the machine at the east gate provided 24-hour self-service book return. The library will continue to extend the time limit for the return of loan documents (30 days after the opening). The library will consider providing express loan service for readers who found it inconvenient to visit the library.
(4) Epidemic prevention and control measures after reopening
Space disinfection and ventilation. Reading rooms, isolation rooms and other service spots are disinfected before opening in the morning and in the noon (the frequency of disinfection will increase according to the numbers of readers). Signage is posted on the entrance of each reading room to indicate the time when disinfection is carried out. Ventilation is increased to at least three times a day of 20 to 30 minutes each time. Items that were in high contact with readers, such as computers, keyboards, and various door handles, were disinfected at least twice a day. Disinfectant wipes were provided for readers.
Personnel protection. Front-line staff needed to pass the temperature test. During service hours, masks and gloves must be worn and these must be replaced daily. Staff should control the number of readers in the service space in an integrated manner based on the actual situation and make sure that readers sit at a safe distance of at least one meter apart.
Disinfection of circulated collections. Based on the characteristics of the virus survival at different temperatures and humidity and, on different objects of different materials, different types of circulated collections are classified and handled. Newly arrived publications undergo isolation and static disinfection, and if necessary, external packaging are sterilized. Collections in reading rooms, are left aside for a period of time before they are placed back on shelves. Self-service disinfection facilities are strategically placed for the readers to disinfect the documents they use. A centralized book return office and a document disinfection room, using a combination of ultraviolet disinfection equipment and an ozone disinfection machine to sterilize returned documents in batches.
Prevention and control notice. The library publicizes awareness programme through various channels to help readers with entry notices, service information, and prevention and control measures. It also reminds readers of epidemic control through setting one meter lines, route guides and markings for standing in elevators. Materials of anti-epidemic education are available on the service counters, posted in reading areas and displayed on screens to help readers understand epidemic control measures and support and cooperate with the library in its prevention and control works.
Since the reopening, library services have been stable, orderly and well received by the public. The National Library of China will continually adjust and improve the opening service policy and health and epidemic prevention measures to meet the changes of the situation, and gradually realize the full reopening.