ADA

Question

Can an employer require a negative COVID test before an employee comes to work? We have discussed it on our [public library system] member directors list but have not come up with a clear yes or no answer.

Answer

Here's something positive and affirming I can say: it's possible that the members expressing different opinions on the member directors' list are actually all correct.


Question

Can a public library compel staff members to get vaccinations for COVID-19, when they are available? If so, can an employee request an exemption? Do we need waivers of library liability if a staff member chooses not to get vaccinated?

Answer

This is an incredibly sensitive, important, and complex set of questions.  I know a lot of people out there in "library land" are waiting on the answer—from many different perspectives.

So we're going to take it slow, break it down, and unpack the components of the answers one step at a time.


Question

Should our library have an accessibility statement?  And should we consider accessibility when making purchases?

Answer

Yes, and yes.

Every library, historical society, archives, or museum, if open to the public, should have accessibility information posted at its premises, in its printed brochures and fliers, and on its website.


Question

In regards to COVID-19 when libraries do reopen, (and allow people in) is it advisable to ask customers to leave the public building if they are exhibiting any visible COVID symptoms? If so, are there benchmarks for how extreme symptoms should be or how policies should be worded?

Answer

As the member writes, it is very difficult to determine if some physical factors—coughing, a flush, seeming malaise—are in fact symptoms of COVID-19.  Confronting a patron with suspected symptoms can also lead to concerns impacting community relations, privacy, and the ADA.


Question

Our library has taken the next step in re-opening and is welcoming the public back into our building.  We have a Safety Plan, and we have posted signage in key areas to help the public follow our safety practices, including staying at least six feet apart whenever possible, and every visitor using hand sanitizer upon entry and (if over the age of two) wearing face coverings at all times.

Answer

It is not wrong to require patrons to wear masks.  As of this writing (July 7, 2020), qualified experts agree that masks remain one of the most effective ways to stop the transmission of COVID-19.[1]  In an environment storing circulating materials[2] and shar


Question

Public and Association libraries have questions about making policies creating conditions that must be met for library staff to return to work. Can they set policies that exclude vulnerable employees from being able to return to work? Can they set policies requiring non-vulnerable employees to return to work?

Answer

I had initially considered bundling this question with another submission about temporary actions or policies during COVID-19.  After all, both questions relate to policy, and a big goal of “Ask the Lawyer” is to provide legal information efficiently.


Question

When publishing Oral Histories to a Digital Exhibit, such as Omeka, are we required by ADA to include a full transcription of the interview in the metadata? Is a Time Summary sufficient?

Answer

Ugh.

Not only is the answer to this “maybe,” but I am afraid the answer is actually “maybe maybe.”  And it might even have to be “Maybe maybe maybe, maybe.”  But hang in there, because I think I can still give you some solid information in reply! (Maybe.)


Question

Can a library prevent someone from coming into the library if they refuse to wear a mask? I know that library behavior policies would need to be broadened to include mask-wearing. Are libraries required to provide a mask for the public - and what if a person wears the mask improperly - can they be asked to leave?

Answer

New York has numerous “types” of libraries, serving a diverse array of locations.  All of them are empowered to take the steps needed to serve their communities safely.


Question

We have a pretty exhaustive personnel policy on the use/limits of use of Library technology and property, both for compliant work-related purposes and for personal purposes.

What we do *not* have, and are wondering if we should, is a policy that speaks to the permitted (or restricted) uses of *personal* phones and similar devices while at work.

Answer

On the surface, this is a simple issue: if people are using their cell phone for personal use on the job, a simple policy to stop the use should solve the problem, right?

Not these days.


Question

We have a patron who insists that it is their right to go barefoot into any public area. Okay, but, being a public (Association) library, aren't we still liable even if that person injures themselves on the property even if they 'say' they wouldn't sue us? Is there a law that defends their position and if so, how do we defend ourselves from litigation? Should we have them sign a waiver?

Answer

To answer this question, I had to switch things up, and pretend that one day, there I am, sitting in my office,[1] when a barefoot person walks up to my door and asks “I want enjoy my library privileges while barefoot, and they won’t let me.  Can they do that, or can you help me sue?