The governmental advice on responding to Coronavirus is changing rapidly, as is to some extent the scientific evidence and – certainly – my understanding of what is going on. Much of the science I have seen lately – contrary to what I was seeing at the start – says that, while the virus can stay on surfaces for a long time, the chances of actually being infected by it is far smaller than that caused by airborne/human contact. This is good news for those of us working out how to quarantine returned books as it’s interesting to note that several foreign libraries – including from tomorrow the not-so-foreign Isle of Man – won’t be quarantining books at all.

They may be taking a big chance with this but not as big as those in England would be if we had to be open. The Isle of Man for example hasn’t had a new case in ten days and no Western European country comes close to the current British infection/death figures. While looking at the pictures of people happily mingling on British beaches this weekend (damn you Cummings and Johnson) and hearing stories of crowded shops not far away from where I live, it’s clear that there’s a danger this thing is not over yet. Hopefully, by the time English libraries are allowed to reopen on 4 July, the figures will have gone down enough for us to be far more confident than we would be if were reopening this week. On the other, far more pessimistic hand, if a second wave does result from the (what would be in this scenario) the reckless premature reopening of the country, then libraries will hopefully be able to take that into account.

Either way, English libraries should see the next month as a gift. As a chance to make sure that their procedures are robust, that frontline staff are consulted (for it is they who will risk their lives) and that there are well-planned options for the various infection scenarios. After all, it is an option that our schools, to their horror, have not had. Let’s be grateful. And make sure we get it right.

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National news

  • First Ambassadors Announced for 2020 Summer Reading Challenge – Reading Agency. “Jacqueline Wilson, Paul O’Grady, Cressida Cowell, Charlie Condou, Philip Ardagh, David Baddiel, Rob Biddulph, Sam and Mark, Hacker T Dog, Ben Fogle, Joseph Coehlo, Katie Thistleton, Harry Baker and Konnie Huq confirmed to support Summer Reading Challenge 2020.” … “he launch will feature special super silly readings, family activities and draw-a-longs from guest celebrities and authors. Over the summer, libraries will continue to run the Challenge in partnership with The Reading Agency, delivering it via virtual services and e-lending platforms, and adapting their delivery if social distancing measures develop and change.”
  • Libraries Hub – Libraries Week. 5-10 October. “Library staff can register now to take part in Libraries Week 2020 and follow @librariesweek to keep informed about this year’s campaign. Follow the links below to discover posters, editable templates and social media graphics in five eye-catching designs, available in English and Welsh.”
  • Libraries of Sanctuary – “Following on from earlier work, such as Welcome To Your Library, public libraries are now working with City of Sanctuary to develop their provision. Thimblemill Library has been recognised as the UK’s first Library of Sanctuary, and we are now building on this experience to support other libraries that also want to become Libraries of Sanctuary. Our resource pack has been produced to support public libraries in this process. It includes detailed information on how a library can meet the requirements to learn about offering sanctuary, embed this learning in their institution, and to share their learning and opportunities with the wider community.”
  • When will libraries open? The latest UK lockdown news on public libraries reopening – and how new rules could work – I. Useful summary of the current situation.
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International news

  • Canada – Quebec’s museums, libraries and drive-ins can reopen May 29 – CBC. “Libraries across the province will also operate differently when they reopen. The public will only be permitted to access a designated area around service counters, and will not be able to browse the library’s book aisles. Visitors will also not be able to use library computers. The CNESST recommends, if possible, that returned books are not touched for 24 hours.”
  • Denmark – Official guidelines for reopening of the Danish libraries – Christian Lauersen. “The guidelines should be seen in context of the general situation in Denmark which is, that the country is reopening rapidly these days; libraries, museums, schools, institutions of education and research, bars, restaurants and a lot of other institutions are opening up again.” No quarantine of books.
  • “The directors of Utrecht, Cologne, and Aarhus public libraries, share their experiences of re-opening their library services under different constraints and regulations prompted by questions from Storyhouse in Chester and Manchester public libraries as the UK anticipates opening their libraries”
  • FinlandCovid-19 and Finnish public libraries – Libraries.Fi. “on 4 May the government allowed all public libraries to restart their lending services immediately. The decision allowed libraries to offer limited services whilst the library premises remain largely closed until 1 June.” … “Turku City Library started daily morning coffee sessions on Instagram Live from the very first closure day.” … “Helsinki City Library started streaming regular literature programmes with guest authors as of 20 March.” … “An agreement between the Finnish Consortium of Public Libraries and the publishers’ association was reached on 22 April. This allowed all public libraries to produce videos containing copyrighted literature and images for periods of two months”. Initially, “all seating and tables may have been removed from library premises, and all areas except for collection areas are locked or fenced off so people do not stay and spend excess time in the library.”

“The experiences from the first week of gradual restricted opening of libraries’ lending services show that, even though the feedback from library users has been overwhelmingly delighted and excited, libraries have not experienced a rush of booklovers crowding the partly-opened libraries.”

  • Global – You can’t keep a good public library (locked) down – Princh. “This week’s great blog post was written by EIFL team, who put together valuable information about how libraries around the world are supporting their communities during COVID-19. As they mention in their website “COVID-19 has closed doors but it hasn’t stopped public libraries from serving their communities.””
An artist asked the occupants of this building in Utrecht what their favourite books were and then painted them … see this link.
  • New Zealand – Budget 2020 announcement: Libraries to help with jobs and community recovery – Libaries Aotearoa / Lianza. “A major funding package for libraries will allow them to play a far greater role in supporting their communities and people seeking jobs as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19. Budget 2020 contains over $60 million of funding to protect library services and to protect jobs,” says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin. This package provides for free internet access in all public libraries to ensure that anyone can access the online services and information they need. “It also recognises the role that librarians play in providing this support. Half of this funding, $30 million, will ensure around 170 librarian jobs are directly protected” (resulting in at least one “upskilled” librarian in every local authority across the country).” [This would be £390 million if scaled up to UK size and converted into pounds. Extra resources for English libraries currently stands at £151k, 2582 times smaller – Ed.]

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