Governor Baker: Vaccinate Massachusetts Library Workers in Phase 2

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tl;dr: As libraries strive to continue serving their communities during the pandemic, library workers across Massachusetts are exposed to random members of the public every day. They should receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as teachers and educators on the front lines. Sign this petition and tell Gov. Charlie Baker you agree that keeping our communities safe means keeping library workers safe.

Library workers care deeply about the communities they serve, which includes doing their part to keep patrons and themselves safe during this pandemic. Libraries serve as important community hubs for connection and they are busy, well-loved spaces, which, during a pandemic, unfortunately means they are inherently risky places for staff and patrons alike. Libraries around the country have taken the difficult but necessary action of limiting services and increasing safety measures for the sake of broader community health. That said, no safety measure would be as effective as vaccinating library workers against COVID-19 as quickly as possible. It will not only significantly reduce their risk of their own infection, but that of community spread as well.

On a routine work day, even when doing curbside pickup or working behind plexiglass shields, library workers handle materials, touch surfaces, share computers, assist with technology use, clean all manner of messes, and conduct checkout and reference transactions. Public library workers in particular are not interacting with a bubble of users as they might find at an academic institution; similar to public transit and grocery store workers, they are spending time around a random assortment of people at a time when cases in Massachusetts are regularly spiking above 5,000 per day. Meanwhile, libraries around the country have closed again and again because of staff cases; according to reports on Twitter, there were over 40 positive cases on staff at the Chicago Public Library at the end of December.

To protect the people keeping the hearts of our communities running, we demand that library workers in Massachusetts receive the COVID-19 vaccination during Phase 2 along with teachers, early childhood educators, adults 65+, grocery store employees, and public transit workers. This is also consistent with recommendations from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). According to the library advoacy group EveryLibrary, "Librarians and library workers were identified in July 2020 as among the 'workers at greatest risk for exposure to infectious diseases' and among those whose '[o]ccupational groups are most likely to be exposed to infection or disease more than one time per month.' The APIC Interim Guidance grouped all 'education, training, and library' workers alongside healthcare practitioners and technical, healthcare support, protective services, personal care and service, and community support workers as 'essential'."

Libraries across the country are tried-and-true economic and workforce development hubs. The economic recovery depends immeasurably on library workers and the continued existence of their positions as the work begins. As libraries are far more often than not the only place in town supplying free WiFi and computer use to all residents, they are vital for providing access to people in need, especially for unemployment and other social benefits. This is just one way libraries are necessary and important to their communities as we begin to strategize and recover from this crisis. Because the health and safety of library staff is fundamental to libraries' role in economic recovery, we implore you to vaccinate Massachusetts library workers in Phase 2.

(Photo of Carol Copson at Springfield Main Library. Credit: masslive.com)



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