The thoughts of many in the library sector this week are with how to safely reopen libraries while Coronavirus is still endemic and killing hundreds each day. It’s not easy but the clear tone of everything I am hearing and seeing is that it’s safety first. No-one is rushing gung-ho into endangering staff and the public and the process – even barring a likely upsurge in cases due to the obviously premature reopening of schools – towards normality will likely come in slow stages over a period of months or a year. Whatever “normality” means.

National news

  • Benevolent Fund support during COVID-19 – CILIP. “The CILIP Benevolent Fund Trustees have agreed an emergency interim policy to ensure that they are able to maximise the support available to CILIP members during the disruption caused by COVID-19 and coronavirus.”

Arts Council England is working with Shared Intelligence to undertake research into the impact of public library services on employment among their users, specifically those who are out of work or who are economically inactive. As part of this work, Shared Intelligence would like to convene a small group of Heads of Service to act as a reference point for quick testing of ideas, questions and findings, and to help identify examples of practice. Specifically, we would be looking for the group to come together three times throughout this work: At the end of phase 1 to discuss findings from scoping activities (including an national survey of library services and a literature review). At the end of phase 2 to discuss findings and results from conversations with key ‘decision-makers’. At the beginning of phase 4 (the final reporting stage), once all fieldwork data has been gathered and collated. Due to the current situation, the group will look to be convened virtually (most likely through Zoom). Please contact Jenna.birley@artscouncil.org.uk if you are interested in taking part or have any questions.

  • British Library asks nation’s children to write miniature books in lockdown – Guardian. “The library is conscious that during lockdown “a high proportion of children do not have access to computers, and that many do not have art materials”, so it will also be distributing a printed pack through public libraries, food banks and sheltered accommodation, and emailing PDFs to teachers nationwide.”
  • Health and Libraries – “We hope to set up a network of interesting and interested people who can meet in Libraries nationally and offer workshops, consultation and projects.”

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to assist libraries to loan more audio books and e-books during the COVID-19 pandemic; and what conversations, if any, they have had with the publishing industry about that issue.” Lord Bird. Government response notes £151k from Arts Council England. They Work For You.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of the loss of access to public library computer terminals during the covid-19 outbreak on the (a) education and (b) mental wellbeing of autistic children and young dependent adults from households with no access to a computer or smartphones.” Caroline Lucas MP. Government response is note use of social media and plan to provide laptops to children. They Work For You.

  • Safety first: The recovery of library services – Libraries Connected. “We are also feeding concerns up to DCMS and into the central government machine that is developing guidance, so we can ensure the specific needs of the library environment are being considered. With 174 million library visits last year – libraries are incredibly busy sites where people from all backgrounds meet closely together, so could also be significant sites for virus transmission if the risks are not fully understood and controlled.”

“The Recovery Toolkit will look in detail at all aspects of library operation to identify risks, and suggest mitigation strategies and work arounds, and provide useful checklists and links to relevant guidance and further reading. It will be designed to be deployed flexibly, as every library service will have to tailor planning to its own risk assessments, available resources and local priorities of need.”

  • Tim Coates – Digital Content Associates. “Has libraries’ focus on social issues and activities come at the expense of their core mission to provide access to content and promote reading? Book trade veteran and library campaigner, Tim Coates, thinks so and has published the Freckle Report to prove it. We ask Tim why he thinks libraries are failing and what can be done about it.”

International news

  • Australia – Supporting Library Staff during #COVID19 Lockdown – Medium. “The staff Wellness Community Hub that our People and Culture team have developed is a place staff can go to to share and talk about the challenges, coping mechanisims and daily hacks they use to get through the day. Staff are encouraged to send photos or contribute to some conversations about their lives when working from home.”
  • Denmark – ”There is a crack in everything – that is how the light gets in”. Experiences with reopening libraries in the age of corona – Library Lab. “Denmark are slowly reopening and so are the libraries. This blog post will be about our practical considerations and actions on reopening libraries in Roskilde Municipality after almost two months of lockdown due to coronavirus.”
  • EU Coronavirus: How lockdown is being lifted across Europe – BBC. Italy opens libraries from 18 May, Netherlands from 11 May, Austria from 18 May.
    • Public Libraries in Europe and COVID-19: Findings from NAPLE Members, April 2020 – NAPLE. “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began to lead to closures of library buildings to the public at the start of March 2020. The following document summarises the measures taken in response to the virus by public libraries in 20 NAPLE member countries to date[1], with specific focus on the extent of closures across Europe; the engagement of staff during closures; services offered to the public (both physical and online) while buildings were closed; quarantining of books and other health and safety measures; efforts by libraries to support national healthcare initiatives; and library efforts to address misinformation about the COVID-19 virus.”
    • Libraries as gardens – “Libraries as Gardens is a creative project that wants to geolocate and map, on a global scale, the before, during and after of the coronavirus lockdown, through sound recordings and the stories of people, told and read in the libraries of their houses during the pandemic and about the public gardens that they remember. The recordings are simultaneously transferred in an augmented audio project, creating sound walks for the future, in the gardens when they open again, made available (for free) through CGeomap for all their walkers”
  • Netherlands – The library is open: what does that actually mean? – Rafelranden. “in the reopening protocols, drawn up by the VOB (Dutch Public Library Association), on the phased reopening of libraries, the primary focus is on the collection and the provision of lending materials, also with regard to the protocol for welcoming primary school pupils (“what children can do in the library (looking for books, being read to) is for each library to decide for themselves”..) “
  • New Zealand – “New adventures in disasterology”: Learning from crisis with Christchurch Libraries – Matt Finch. “I think big learnings from this time are that libraries most certainly have a role to play, we need to be able to adapt for and listen to communities who are going through traumatic events, we need to be willing to try things out and experiment, we need to have our Business Continuity Plans (and all other plans) up to date and have them handy in a variety of formats.”
    • An open book: All you need to know for your library visit – Newsline. ““We are introducing a range of measures, including restricting the number of people within library spaces at any one time, along with the duration of visits. We also need to meet contact tracing requirements, so all visitors will need to sign in – and out”
  • Global – Market overview – Local Government Library Technology. “The library technology industry, broadly speaking, shows more affinity toward utility than innovation. Library automation systems are not necessarily exciting technologies, but they are workhorse applications that must support the complex tasks of acquiring, describing, and providing access to materials and services.”
  • USA – Libraries have spent years reinventing themselves. Will they have to do it again? – Marketplace. “The Boston Public Library, for example, has been working on developing more affordable housing to sit atop some of its branches. The Austin Public Library offers citizenship courses for immigrants and hosts naturalization ceremonies. And the Bristol Public Library in Indiana, like many others, allows patrons to check out baking equipment to use at home. A lot of these new changes mean that people spend more time in libraries.” 4 minute interview. Started “curbside” delivery with masks/rubber gloves delivered in bag to car on demand.
  • Chicago Public Library Calls Staff Back to Work, Plans Full Reopen June 1 – Book Riot. “The Chicago Public Library system, however, is handling this a little differently, endangering the health and well-being of their staff, as well as the communities in which they aim to serve.” … “Gloves are helpful only if they’re disposed of between interactions. Will CPL be providing a day’s worth of gloves? What about enough masks for the realities of working with the public for 8 hours in one? What happens if a staff member wearing a mask sneezes while it’s on?”

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