I attended, virtually, of course, the “Libraries after Covid” digital “thinkin” last week, organised by Tortoise in partnership with Libraries Connected. The session was well-attended, with over 400 apparently watching, but it was a bit derailed as it was already evident that the Government was keen on opening up the country before the lethal pandemic had passed. So it was more a case of “Libraries during Covid”.

The overwhelming sense I got from the session and from reading about the library situation nationally and internationally is that health and safety should come first. After all, if reopening public libraries could potentially kill someone, then we are doing it wrong. This will probably involve reopening in stages, with perhaps a click and collect service coming first, and limited use of the personal computers, with a “normal” service being many months away.

And then the Prime Minister came on TV this evening. It was all a bit confusing but it looks like public services may (or may not if things go wrong) start reopening from July, whatever that means. However, being that one of the steps in June is allowing 4 to 6 year olds back to school, its quite likely things will go wrong. After all, many four year olds can barely remember to use the toilet all the time, let alone socially distance, and they will be in contact presumably with thirty others, teachers and, when they get home, parents and grandparents. Quarantining it is not.

A fifty page document is being released tomorrow and it may have more information in it about libraries but, whatever we do, one hopes that it will be safety first, of staff and the public. This needs to be mixed with our very important social mission of course so this will be a challenge. But nothing about the current situation isn’t challenging. Libraries have done better in the last couple of months than we could have guessed or hoped for beforehand. So let’s not mess it up now, for this could be life and death important.

National news

  • £18m support for the culture, creative and sport sector in Wales – Welsh Government. “£250k Digital Library Resources, which will enable public libraries to provide additional digital resources to the public and gives people resources to read and engage with whilst self-isolating.” and “£1m Cultural Resilience Fund for museums, collections, conservation services, archives and community and public libraries to respond to short-term pressures and recovery actions on a grant application basis.”

“The prime minister is effectively trying to pull off the impossible. He wants to try to restart normal life, while keeping the virus at bay with limited means to do so. With no vaccine, the government is reliant on containing any local outbreaks. But the problem is that even with the extra testing that has been put in place over the past month, there are big holes in the UK’s ability to suppress the virus.”

BBC Heath Correspondent
  • Lego, learning and laughter: how libraries are thriving in lockdown – Guardian. “The sudden switch from a physical space to online has been challenging for staff and users, but has also highlighted the vital role of library services and the skills of staff. From Orkney’s Lego challenge to Truro’s storytime at home sessions, librarians are coming up with innovative ways to stay engaged with users and each other.”
  • Libraries Give Vital PC Access through the Lockdown – Lorensbergs. “libraries’ physical buildings, their resources and staff are still sorely missed by many of their users and their reopening will be warmly welcomed” … “a small minority of libraries have in fact provided physical access to computers during this time” e.g. Westminster … “, it’s anticipated that home library services involving doorstep deliveries may be among the first services to restart.”

“At the beginning I wanted to assist those in need, but was concerned about my safety and well-being. When I was reassured the staff would be provided with the appropriate PPEs as part of the safety protocol, then I felt safe to go ahead and provide this service. People do respect the distance. The cleaner cleans the PC and chair after each user.”

Westminster member of staff

International news

  • Australia – COVID-19 Infection Prevention Tips for Libraries – Medium / Jane Cowell. “These tips have been developed by a team of dedicated public library staff.”: don’t touch faces, don’t use mobile phones, wash hands, 4 metre separation, gloves when handling returned books, quarantine books for 72 hours, click and collect only,

“After each shift and before breaks keep your gloves on. Spray them with disinfectant then spray down your workstation and wipe after 10 seconds with paper towel. Wipe trolley handles that you have used with disinfectant-soaked paper towel. Then you can remove your gloves.”

“If your plan is to begin reopening as soon as possible, or engaging in curbside soon, then I want to see the library director and administrators on the front lines of service. I want them to be the ones to take books out to the cars, handle materials, and empty book drops.”

Royce Kitts, Director. Liberal Memorial Library. Liberal, Kansas

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