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From the Third Floor - State Librarian's Office

The official blog of the State Librarian of Kansas

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Jun 09

Helping our communities move forward

Posted on June 9, 2020 at 2:05 PM by Holly Hutchinson

On Monday, June 8, Kansas moved into Phase 3 of the Governor’s Statewide Reopening Plan.  Phase 3 generally allows for less restrictions on gatherings, individuals, and employers, as follows:

  • Mass gatherings of more than 45 individuals are not recommended. Mass gatherings are defined as instances in which individuals are in one location and are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals (not including individuals who reside together) with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.
  • Local governments retain authority to impose equal or more stringent restrictions during this phase.
  • Any federal restrictions imposed and still in effect must be followed.
  • Individuals may choose to wear cloth masks in public settings as appropriate.
  • Employers may begin reducing telework and start bringing employees back to work in an office setting while maintaining 6 feet of distance between employee workstations.
  • All businesses can safely open and should maintain at least 6 feet of distance between consumers (individuals or groups) and follow fundamental cleaning and public health practices as designated by KDHE.

The events of the last six months have been startling both professionally and personally, and continue daily to take my breath away.  I have been unsure how to respond across a large platform but I have had many interpersonal conversations with Kansas residents and with librarians across the state and nation.  In those conversations I have consistently encouraged a strong line of communication between the library, its stakeholders, and the community.  Public libraries in Kansas are under local control, which I strongly support, and believe that each library should try its best to operate in a way that contributes to the betterment of the community while maintaining the professional standards and ethics of librarianship. 

And it isn’t easy – as a public library director, I have been in disputes with the community I served, where a portion of the community very vocally disagrees and argues publically against the decisions and actions of library.  I believe that such situations make you a better librarian; it forces you to consider your decisions with as much unbiased scrutiny as you can muster and be certain you are making the best decision possible for the organization and the community.  It can be very uncomfortable but that is why I believe that being a librarian is much more than a job, it is a calling to serve.

The State Library is like every other library out there right now – we are trying to find the best way to serve the public and protect our employees; we are trying to find the best way to clearly inform without spreading speculation or adding to the overwhelming noise; we are trying to find the best way to be of assistance and move forward without a confident understanding of where we are all going. 

Like every other library out there, we are uncertain about the future and anxious about our budget over the next several years; but also, like every other library out there, we are determined to help our community as best we can.  We are a little unsure of the process, and the plan keeps changing, but we are certain we can help move our communities forward.

-- Eric Norris