As England experiences its second lockdown of 2020, we can’t help wondering how this will impact our nation’s libraries.
And with the first National Lockdown meaning libraries had to close, many people were wondering whether these new restrictions will mean a repeat of this.
England's lockdown came into effect from 12.01 on 5 November. The restrictions are currently proposed to last until 2 December. From then on, lockdown restrictions will be eased on a local and regional basis.
What do we know so far?
Fiona Williams, chief executive of Explore York Libraries and Archives, was reported by The York Press this week as suggesting it was still possible that some library services may be able to remain open. This would be the case if they were categorised as 'essential' by the government.
However, this has not yet been declared. The possibility of some libraries across England remaining fully open as 'essential services' currently seems unlikely. Many libraries are now only operating restricted services and have already closed.
Currently the most recent government advice suggests that people can only leave their homes for limited reasons and must work from home where possible.
Whilst originally libraries were not specified in the government’s initial lockdown restrictions, according to Public Libraries News, they have now been addressed.
They report that on 2nd November The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 mentioned libraries.
Can I still get collect library books during lockdown?
Whilst it's expected that the majority of libraries will now be closed along with other non-essential services, there might yet be light at the end of the reading tunnel.
The report suggests that libraries are allowed to offer:
- Click and Collect services for books
- Essential IT access
- Home library services
- School library services
- Digital/remote services
- Digital access to other services
This view is shared by Libraries Connected on Twitter. Libraries Connected is a membership organisation and represents the heads of the library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
●Home Library Service ●School Library Service●Order & Collect services●Access to PCs for essential purposes●Digital and remote services ●Digital access to public servicesNovember 5, 2020
They have tweeted the same, suggesting that libraries will sadly only be able to offer these restricted services during the second lockdown.
When did the libraries reopen after the first lockdown?
Following the national lockdown in March, Libraries were officially allowed to re-open from 4 July. This was part of the third phrase of the government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy and marked the start of many non-essential venues opening again. Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, museums, places of worship and hairdressers were all allowed to re-open from here.
However many libraries have only been back fully open for a little over a month. Hagley and Woodrow libraries in Worcestershire reopened on 14 September. York Libraries also only opened again in September after weeks of lockdown.
Click and Collect services
But there is some good news as back when the National Lockdown began to ease, some libraries were utilising Click and Collect systems. These services have been used to great effect in various sectors.
Right now whilst we wait for more specific, regional guidance, this seems to be the best way to get your next book safely.
It seems only time will tell when we will be able to access our local library's shelves again.
In the meantime, we can all turn to a good book to help brighten these autumn days.