Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): public libraries guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 18 Nov 2020 - see all updates

Information and advice to help public libraries re-open safely.

30 page PDF

439.2 kB

30 page PDF

439.2 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): public libraries guidance
Where we are now

30 page PDF

439.2 kB

Where we are now

The First Minister announced that Scotland would be entering a lockdown on 23 March 2020. Under law, the Scottish Government must review that lockdown at least every three weeks (most recently on 21 October 2020).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis was published on 21 May 2020. It set out a phased approach to easing the lockdown and our movement through each phase of the lockdown. The restoration of public library services was able to proceed from phase 3 of Scotland's route map with preparatory work for ensuring physical distancing and enhanced hygiene measures able to take place during phase 1

Inevitably, opening parts of our economy and society has provided new opportunities for the virus to spread and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework for Scotland was published on 23 October 2020 setting out how we will work to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible and tackle the four harms we know the virus causes.

This framework sets out new approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection consisting of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0') as set out below:

Level 0 (baseline) and Level 1

Within these levels, we would expect to see low incidence of the virus with isolated clusters, and low community transmission. Broadly, these levels are the closest we can get to normality, without a vaccine or effective treatment in place, before conditions will allow us to move to Phase 4 of the Route Map. They would be similar to the measures in place during the summer, once we reached Phase 3. The Baseline and Level 1 are designed to be sustainable for longer periods.

Levels 2-3

Within Levels 2 and 3, we would expect to see increased incidence of the virus, with multiple clusters and increased community transmission. There would be a graduated series of protective measures to tackle the virus, focusing on key areas of risk – broadly, indoor settings where household mixing takes place with less, or less well-observed, physical distancing and mitigations. The measures would be intended to be in place for relatively short periods (2-4 weeks), and only for as long as required to get the virus down to a low, sustainable level.

Level 4

Within this level we would expect to see very high or rapidly increasing incidence, and widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope. It is likely that this level would see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. Measures would be designed to be in place for a short period, to provide a short, sharp response to quickly suppress the virus

You can find out more information about what protective level your Local Authority is in using the Post Code checker.

Other guidance that should be consulted includes:

  • HPS: COVID-19 Non Healthcare Settings guidance which provides general information on the background to COVID-19, symptoms, general principles of infection prevention and control and health protection measures and what to do if someone becomes unwell on site
  • NHS Inform which has a wide range of useful public facing information including information on symptoms and what to do
  • Test and protect website from Scottish Government that contains information on how to get tested and what you need to do
  • Returning to work safely which has details of current sectoral guidance and further sources of advice for organisations and workers
  • Healthy Working Lives website which provides examples of risk assessment templates and other practical tools for organisations and workers
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) COVID-19 guidance as this will be referred to by HSE inspectors to assess compliance

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing requirements are set out in  the schedules of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels)(Scotland) Regulations 2020. A person who is responsible for a place of worship, carrying on a business or providing a service must take all measures, where reasonably practicable:

  • to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)

You will need to calculate the maximum number of individuals that can be in the library during a session, based on the maximum number of all persons (including staff) who can maintain physical distancing of 2 metres, taking into account the total floor space, as well as the layout or usage of different sections of the centre/facility. You should consider limiting the number of customers at any time by asking customers to book ahead.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors, staff on zero hours contracts, and volunteers, as well as your employees.

Public libraries should therefore use this guidance to look forward and engage with trade union or workforce representatives to develop workplace specific plans for a managed transition between levels, allowing sufficient time for that joint work.

Decisions around restoring services and what that might look like will be made by local authorities to suit the local context and services that can be restored within the levels approach and determined by physical distancing measures that can be put in place by libraries. These decisions will be made in line with Scottish Government decisions and Public Health Scotland guidance. This guidance should be applied for all phases of restoring services.

The Scottish Government has initiated a broad collaborative process to develop sectoral guidance which will underpin that managed transition and provide clarity and confidence to public libraries, employees and local communities, protect public health and concurrently optimise economic recovery. Aligned with that we are reviewing and enhancing testing and enforcement arrangements, and ensuring that the guidance is coherent and connected, recognising for example transport and other inter-dependencies.

We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance, where possible and on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance is intended to work alongside and build upon UK Government guidance and aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment and readers will recognise consistent themes within this guidance with the UK Government’s  Working Safely during COVID-19 publications.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s  business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.



First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 18 Nov 2020 -