Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) Information Hub: A COVID-19 Research Project


As libraries and museums around the country begin to resume operations and reopen to the public, the need for clear information to support the handling of core museum, library, and archival materials has become increasingly urgent.

OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle are working to create and distribute science-based information and best recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services. This research collaboration will provide information on how long the virus survives on surfaces and how—or if—materials can be handled to mitigate exposure.

To achieve these goals, the partnership is initiating work on several fronts:

  • Collect, review, and summarize authoritative research that applies to materials commonly found in the collections and facilities of archives, libraries, and museums
  • Ongoing consultation and engagement with a project steering committee, working groups, and other subject matter experts from archives, libraries, and museums
  • Laboratory testing of how COVID-19 interacts with a selection of materials commonly found in archives, libraries, and museums; and identifying methods of handling and remediation
  • Synthesize the above inputs into toolkit resources that support reopening and operational considerations
  • Share project information and toolkit resources through the project website and amplified by member associations and support organizations that serve archives, libraries, and/or museums.

Research timeline

This project is designed to be flexible and evolve as more becomes known about the virus and best practices to reduce risk of transmission. The partnership will address known and emergent research questions in three phases:

Phase 1: Preparing for Reopened Libraries: Research on High-Priority Materials and Workflows (May 2020 – August 2020)

This phase will collect, curate, and disseminate information and recommended practices for handling physical collections and facilities in anticipation of a phased-in or full reopening of public library buildings and services starting as early as May 2020. This phase will produce an initial set of toolkit resources.

Activities underway and planned for May include:

  • Conducting literature reviews of scientific research
  • Gathering and assessing protocols and guidelines for other materials-based service industries
  • Gathering examples of public and state library plans and protocols for reopening
  • Developing laboratory testing scenarios and identifying materials to prioritize for analysis
  • Lab testing at Battelle
  • Steering committee and working group meetings
  • Communication of project updates through the website
  • Setting up additional project communication channels and a community network of associations and support organizations.

Phase 2: Additional Research to Support Operations of Libraries, Archives, and Museums (June 2020 – October 2020)
This phase will study a second set of materials and workflows across libraries, archives/special collections, and museums. This set will include any materials and workflows that have factors that were not addressed in Phase 1 but are important to the function of archives, libraries, and/or museums. The research activities will produce a second set of toolkit resources, and will update Phase 1 resources with new information that may have emerged. A more fully designed website will be launched during this phase.

Phase 3: Monitor, Update, Communicate (October 2020 – September 2021)
In Phase 3, the project will continue to monitor and review emerging research that may require updates and additions to what has been created during the first two phases. In addition, as the rate of transmission for the virus changes over time and communities continue to adjust to those changes, the policies and practices of libraries and museums may also warrant a change.

OCLC and Battelle will publish research briefings based on literature reviews and specialist knowledge gathered during the project. These briefings will be designed to support evidence-based decisions about operations, policies, and workflows.

REALM Project Steering Committee

REALM Science Working Group

REALM Operations Working Group

How to stay connected

We encourage you to sign up to receive project updates by email and/or bookmark this page, as it will be the primary source for housing all program results and resources. You can also follow OCLC on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn for the latest project updates and join the conversation using #REALMproject.


 For media inquiries, contact Bob Murphy at or +1-614-761-5136


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