By Sue Tiffin
The Haliburton County Library Board adopted two new policies at their Dec. 8 meeting held virtually via Zoom.
The COVID-19 vaccination policy notes the HCPL’s responsibility under provincial legislation to take all necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of staff and volunteers, as well as the library board’s responsibility under the Occupational Health & Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable to ensure the health and safety of library staff. It is based on the Ministry of Health, and both chief and local medical officer of health’s recommendations for all individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and and acknowledges “the HCPL provides services to vulnerable populations.”
Within 30 days of adoption of the policy, all library staff, library board members and library volunteers are required to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or participate in a weekly rapid antigen testing program. Those remaining unvaccinated would be required to complete an education session.
“I made the same comment in the county’s discussion … I struggle with the education session, that feels very Clockwork Orange to me,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt, who sits on the board. “There’s no reason under the sun why somebody wouldn’t understand the reasons why they should, they’re just choosing not to be, and I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not going to die on that hill, but I said the same thing to the county that I can’t support forcing someone to watch a video that, in the world we live in today, they’d have to be living under a rock not to understand the science. They don’t believe it for whatever their personal reasons are. I don’t think making someone watch an information session is going to have any outcome, I just really struggle with that part.”
Erin Kernohan-Berning, branch services librarian and deputy CEO, who has degrees in molecular biology and biotechnology, has been helping keep staff informed and education about misinformation during the pandemic and spoke to Moffatt’s concerns.
“Most public policies do have an education requirement,” she said. “It’s not really all that different from us having to watch a health and safety video, which we do have to as a requirement of our employment. It really is just a training video. We’re not really holding someone’s eyelids open, à la Clockwork Orange, to watch it, it’s just there.”
Kernohan-Berning was thanked for the work she has been doing.
“I just think it’s important to try and really meet people where they’re at, and then lead them to where we’d like them to go,” she responded. “I’m hoping I’ve helped a bit with that.”
Moffatt asked about the policy for patrons of the library. Chair Sally Howson said patrons are required to wear masks and distance. CEO Chris Stephenson said the HCPL was “following suit with libraries pretty much everywhere throughout Ontario,” without checks at the door due to a lack of staff time to do so. He said he’s always looking at ways in which the library can support staff well-being, and also temper the need for progress with safety.
The working remotely policy presented mimics that of the county, and is meant to be in place beyond the pandemic, allowing staff who can work from home remotely to do on an occasional or emergency basis.
“I mean, this is where we are,” said Moffatt. “This is what the pandemic has shown us and taught us, is that that there’s a high rate of productivity to be found, as long as the benchmarks and the productivity measures are in place. I think it helps us as a broader community be employer of choice, and just provides a good work environment.”
The board also discussed the need for an emergency plan.
“I think we’ve learned a lot and it would actually be a good time to do it because now we’ve been through an emergency and know what we should do,” said Howson. “We should make the plan.”