Public library services and Coronavirus: GLL

“Well, that was a long week… The Prime Minister announced on Monday that libraries were to close together with places of worship, playgrounds and most shops.

Many of the Councils which are responsible for the provision of public libraries, had already taken the decision to close – and we had been busy discussing closure with clients for several days. The previous Friday we had closed libraries in Wandsworth and Greenwich, on Saturday, libraries in Dudley, and on Monday, libraries in Bromley and across Lincolnshire.

Although our buildings are closed, some of our services are still running. In both Greenwich and Wandsworth, we are providing our home delivery libraries, taking books, DVDs and audio books to elderly, vulnerable people: the style of delivery has changed, of course, as we are taking stringent precautions to protect both staff and customers but our customers are delighted that they are still able to receive their requests. In Bromley, where we have always used volunteers to provide home delivery services, we are instead making phone calls to elderly customers, to check that they are well and to provide a friendly voice to speak to. The Small Business Information Service based in Woolwich Library is calling customers, too, many desperate for advice and support in these difficult times.  Library staff are also being seconded to the Councils’ community support services, staffing phone lines to support the vulnerable by providing advice, and signposting to other organisations as appropriate. In Dudley, this involvement is becoming practical, too, as we deliver food packages and medicine to vulnerable people in quarantine, using our mobile library vehicles.

But the majority of our services have now moved online. We had recently reviewed our digital products and upgraded them across all partnerships – and so we have a great offer to build on . Customers can read their daily newspaper – from whichever country they choose – or their favourite magazines  — Hello, New Scientist, Homes and Garden, Men’s Health – there is an amazing range on offer via PressReader. Of course, you can also read an eBook or listen to an audio book … these services have become more popular over the last year and we have no doubt that Overdrive and RBDigital collections will become more and more popular during the quarantine period. We offer music downloads, too – and our provider Freegal  has now given our customers unlimited streaming for the next 6 months.  It is great to see our suppliers coming forward to support us during this time of crisis – and reflects well on the relationships we have developed with our partners over the years.

As well as these services , our library, museum and archive staff are now developing their own online content. Bromley Libraries are providing daily sessions for children on their Facebook site – rhyme times, story times, sing and sign sessions: sing and sign had 1,600 views while my personal favourite, the tale of the (not so) little pigs, has attracted 913 views so far. Wandsworth Libraries have also swung into action with Rhyme sessions from children’s librarians, with more to follow. Lincolnshire is replicating their weekly activities programme with an online version: Monday is Crafts and Laughs, Tuesday , Lego Club and so on. To replace their weekly Lego clubs, they are setting a weekly Lego building competition for children: the Partnership Manager’s son has already been bribed to submit an entry! Dudley Libraries are holding a livestreaming ‘Ask a Librarian’ Question and Answer session daily, and Greenwich Libraries are majoring on craft activities – and again, providing online versions of the daily activities we provide in libraries: Eltham Library’s online version of the regular scrabble club included a tile challenge – so how many words can you make with these 7 letters: D G A E T O R?”

– Sing and Sign/Storytime at Bromley’s Mottingham Library which appeared on BBC London TV News: Starts 22 mins 30 seconds in.  Also on Instragram.

See also the GLL news webpage.