North Yorkshire residents will again be able to pick up books by their favourite authors as libraries begin a phased reopening from Monday, 6 July.
Libraries across the county closed in March as the lockdown began to combat the spread of Covid-19. Following the relaxation of restrictions, libraries will reopen in stages, putting the safety of customers and staff and volunteers at the forefront all the way.
To begin with, visits will be by appointment only. From 6 July, customers will be able to take advantage of a free Select and Collect service. They will be able to call or email their local library to request the kind of books they like. A member of the library team will hand-pick a selection that meets the customer’s request, then contact the customer to arrange a convenient time for them to collect the books from the library entrance. As usual, books can be borrowed for up to three weeks.
Customers can also use a new “library takeaway” service, which offers specially selected book bundles to borrow. There will be a menu to choose from each week with something for all ages. Details will be on local library Facebook pages. People will be able to return books, but for now library buildings will not be open for any other services. Books will be quarantined when they are returned.
The aim will then be to open further services over the following weeks, starting with bookable access to libraries’ public computers, followed by a return to browsing with social distancing in place. Only when restrictions are eased sufficiently will libraries reopen their public toilets, desks and tables for public use and café areas. All details will be available here.
County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “Our staff and volunteers are eager to welcome people back, but the safety of our customers must always come first. This is why we are taking things gradually. Staff and volunteers are all working hard behind the scenes to open the doors fully and safely and we will announce our next steps soon.
“All libraries are different, with a wide range of buildings and individual challenges to overcome, so we ask customers to be patient while we get our libraries back up and running fully.”
Regular library user Sophie Drury-Bradey is looking forward to being able to borrow books again.
She said: “We love our local library in Scarborough town centre. As a family, we’ve always found it so welcoming and relaxed. I often take my three-year-old son, Wallace, to the children’s section and the staff are always so helpful with his unique interests – for instance when he was obsessed with sausages the librarian helped us find six different books all about them! My son was thrilled and I was pleased, too, as it gave him a reason to enjoy story time at home.
“During lockdown we’ve gradually worked our way through the books we have at home. Currently, the obsession is diggers – and we’ve got stuck reading one particular digger book called Dig, Dig, Digging every single night and many times! My son loves it, but I’m desperate for the library to reopen so we can find some different books on diggers!”
The Select and Collect system will be run at the 11 libraries managed by the County Council (Filey, Knaresborough, Harrogate, Malton, Northallerton, Pickering, Ripon, Selby, Scarborough, Skipton and Whitby) plus Richmond. Most community-managed libraries will follow suit, but some will take a slightly different approach, so please check on the county council website or library Facebook page.
Initially, most County Council-managed libraries will open 10am to noon and 2pm to 4pm on their normal opening days only) for Select and Collect and returns only. Community-managed libraries may be opening different hours, so please be patient if you can’t contact them immediately and please keep trying.
Cllr White added: “Anyone who has items on loan from before lockdown does not need to hurry to return them. The loan period has been extended to 1 September, so no fines are accruing. In fact, we have 105,000 items on loan, so we’d appreciate it if people wouldn’t return them all in the first few days.”
All details of how the Select and Collect system will work can be found here and individual library’s Facebook pages. Alternatively, if people have any queries they can call their local library or the library helpline number, 01609 533878.