Yes: Mark the Standards Permanent, Protect the Frontline
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue. I am an assistant in a public library and my coworkers and I have been back at work, serving the public every day since June 15. Based on the best public health guidance available, we are using strict mask requirements, social distancing, plexiglas barriers, and extra cleaning to keep ourselves and our patrons safe. Right now, the library is a lifeline for people who feel isolated and anxious, who need reliable information as well as a chance to escape and to use their imaginations. Our patrons are toddlers learning to read and parents learning to teach their children at home, all the way to seniors who won't brave the grocery store themselves but will come to the library for their favorite book. Every day, multiple people tell me, "Thank you for being here," "Thank you for what you're doing for us," "Thank you for figuring this out. We missed the library so much!"
My coworkers are proud of the work we're doing and the services we're offering. We are also mortal. We have young children at home, elderly parents and grandparents; we are cancer survivors, asthmatics, and diabetics. My husband has lost two members of his family to Covid-19; one of my coworkers has lost six. Another coworker has two members of her family currently hospitalized. We go to work every day with the knowledge that we might be exposing ourselves, and bringing the virus back to our loved ones.
Covid-19 is no joke. And it will be with us long past January. So far, no one in our library has tested positive, but that's not the case in libraries around us that haven't followed the same safety protocols. Right now, the VOSH standards are protecting us, but if these rules go away, and we have to spend 40 hours a week in a place that doesn't keep us safe, my coworkers -- my workplace family -- are going to face potentially lifelong effects and some may even die. That's not acceptable.
-Charlotte Malerich, Arlington Public Libraries, Member AFSCME District 20