During this pandemic, libraries and schools must analyze their environments to ensure safety. Research and expert opinion indicate that there are strategies to minimize the risk of microorganisms: ventilation and filtration can reduce their airborne concentration.
We have had a lot of discussions about air pressure in the library. How is it maintained? How can we improve controls that support healthy airflow? For example, Tom Wilson of Reid Wilson Architects (RWA), stated that supply at the window combined with a return air opposite to the window is a good strategy. Their affiliate firm, ADG, is also analyzing a system with four air returns that can provide a children’s learning space for 15 students in a separate environmental zone.
There are a variety of options to provide a library or learning space in a pandemic world. Each option should minimize the risk to the students and faculty. When choosing to open your library, you’ll have multiple service options. You can offer touchless service and curb pickup, and start to create safe study spaces. These spaces will need to be configured to suit your user needs.
Below is list of current guidelines for reopening:
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Here are a few more ideas to consider:
Study Areas/Space Programming: Students will need separate study rooms or an area to work. You can reprogram your library to have interior walls and more study rooms. You can use room dividers, installed to customize your library to fit your school, college or university needs.
Electrical Systems: Study cubicle panels can come pre-wired to ensure easy installation of electrical accessories like wall-switches and outlets. You can also use a Steelcase product called the Thread. It is a flat electrical system that can be deployed easily.
Study Space Program What size should the study space be? Typically, the size of your safe space library can be between 100 and 200 sq. ft. per unit. The ceiling height can range from 7’ to 14’ high.
MERV Indoor Filters: There are filters that can reduce the spread of the virus. Take a look at the MERV scale – we recommend MERV 13-16 for library contamination control. There are list of HEPA to ULPA filters, you will need to analyze an entire range of air filtering and HVAC functionality to reduce the spread of the virus.
Lights: Your safe study space can be built to optimize the light coming in from existing windows. There are a lot of options to consider.
Ceiling grid systems: You can build prefab wall systems to accommodate the size and height of your library. A strong aluminum ceiling grid can be integrated into the plan to ensure that your safe study space ceiling doesn’t sag or fall over time.
Pass-through Spaces: You will need to allow patrons to pass safely in and out of the library. However, this is where studies have shown the virus can be the most contagious. Analyzing your entranceway and flow will help mitigate the risks. You need to make sure air is flowing and/or being cleaned. Encouraging flow around the entrance and reducing the amount of people congregating around services is important.
Provide Scrub Area: It is important to provide additional washing areas in the library. Installing a washing area complete with a sink, soap dispenser and hand dryers can be expensive. However, it is the best strategy to ensure you continue to provide a safe and clean library. Most libraries already provide hand sanitizer at all touch points – service desk, collection areas, entrance and bathrooms.
Door Options: Whatever your study space needs are, or wherever the door opens to, you will have options: a standard door, a strip door, a sliding door, fabric curtain or an automatic door. Analyze how you can customize your library for your user needs.
Security and Control Panels: It’s important to ensure that your library stays clean and that the library users don’t contaminate each other. One of the best ways to do this is to install control panels that only trained employees have access to. This way, all of your furniture, equipment, and the integrity of your study spaces are protected. These security measures can range from managing the door locks to electronic key-pad systems, to accommodate all security needs.
Talk-through and intercom systems: Also available are ways to provide easy communication through the library’s safe study spaces, without entering and exiting the study areas. Libraries should reconsider their communication systems to mitigate the risks.