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Social distancing: Resource roundup

Implementing and adhering to social distancing measures can be a challenge for archives, libraries, and museums (LAMs) when reopening their facilities. To create enough distance for visitors and staff, LAMs may have to modify or reimagine their spaces and the experiences offered within them. These resources can help to provide guidance on social distancing measures while serving the public and keeping staff safe.

Consider starting with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing primer. The CDC also provides specific guidance for employers on how to establish and maintain social distancing practices in the workplace. For additional recommendations, check your state, county, and local retail guidelines, such as these guidelines from Massachusetts. (Although many retail guidelines are written for stores, they can help you think about ways of achieving social distance among visitors and staff.)

These resources focus on social distancing. Find additional resources on LAM reopening considerations here.

Note: These examples may have changed since being reviewed; last accessed May 4, 2021.


"The Road to Normal: Bookmobiles and outreach staffers take on new roles in a year of COVID-19," from American Libraries, published March 2021: An article focusing on the new roles of bookmobiles and library outreach staff take in a year of COVID-19.

Reopening Guidance for Libraries,” from the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA): Includes recommendations for social distancing to help inform planning.

Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” from the American Library Association: Answers to FAQs librarians may have, such as “Can public libraries require temperature or health status checks before staff or patrons enter the building?” and “Can public libraries require staff or patrons to wear masks if they wish to enter the building?” 

Restoring In-Person Services in California’s Libraries,” from Includes an appendix of the California Department of Public Health’s Industry Guidance for Retail (begins on page 19). 

COVID-19 and the Global Library Field,” from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions: A comprehensive guide and resource roundup on social distancing in libraries.

Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses,” from the CDC (created for businesses and employers): De-escalation techniques that can apply to public-facing, “front line” library staff who may encounter resistance from patrons regarding COVID-19 policies.


Reopening: Guidance for Museums and Collecting Institutions,” from the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA): Includes recommendations for social distancing to help inform planning.

Re-opening Gairloch Museum – A familiar journey,” from Museums and Heritage Highland: This blog post outlines the social distancing measures taken by a smaller museum during its reopening.

Museums and Social Distancing: A Planning Toolkit,” from CCD x Smartify: This toolkit walks you through the visitor journey, from pre-visit to post-visit, and how to adapt the experience along each step of the way. 

Toolkit for Museum Reopening: Design Strategies and Considerations,” from Isometric Studio: This toolkit includes diagrams for achieving one-way guest flow in different gallery layouts, ideas for maintaining interactivity safely, and other practical suggestions for balancing guest experience with safety measures.

Italy’s Museums Reopen with Vibrating Social-Distancing Necklaces, Limited Admission,” from Smithsonian Magazine: This example combines the use of technology and staff resources to maintain distance between guests. 

D.C. museum rethinks visitor tech with social distancing in mind,” from FCW: Using the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture as an example, this article explores the use of apps on guests’ own devices as a social distancing tool.