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Libraries start new chapter with gradual reopening after lockdown

By Dayna Farrington | Walsall | Coronavirus | Published:

A number of libraries across the Black Country and Staffordshire are beginning a phased reopening this week.

They are among a range of venues allowed to open their doors to visitors from July 4 in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

Walsall Council have devised plans for a phased reopening – and the plans are focused on the safety of library staff, volunteers and visitors. The first phase started on Monday, where most library foyers will be open to enable book return on weekdays between 10am and 4pm.

In the borough, the next phase will be introduced on July 13 as a 'ring and read' service, where users can get in touch to indicate the types of book they like, which staff will then select and bag up, to minimise contact. Customers will be able to start collecting their bagged selection from July 20. It will be a pilot service initially taking place at Bloxwich District Library and the Lichfield Street Hub in Walsall.

Councillor Garry Perry, portfolio holder for community, leisure and culture, said: "I know how well-loved our libraries are and that our residents are keen to return once the doors are open. Our focus is on proceeding very carefully and safely and staying in step with our neighbouring authorities.

"Officers are adhering to official guidance and recommended best practice and risk assessments have taken place for each library site. We are adopting a phased approach and will seek to learn from both our own pilots and the emerging national picture."

Dudley Libraries also reopened in a phased manner from Monday, with six libraries opening with reduced operating times, between 10am and 3pm Monday to Saturday, offering a library takeaway service only. It will include Dudley, Brierley Hill, Halesowen, Kingswinford, Sedgley and Stourbridge libraries and residents should ring the individual library for more information.

Dudley Libraries manager, David Potts, said: Dudley’s library users will notice some changes we have made to ensure their safety and that of our staff. We will be opening more libraries and increasing the number of available services over the coming weeks and months while ensuring we return to full operation in the safest way possible.

“We thank customers for their patience as we return to a full service.”

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Staffordshire’s 43 libraries began a phased reopening on Monday. Stafford Library was among the first in the county to reopen on Monday, with others due to follow in the coming weeks.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: "This is not a return to normality, but a welcome step towards it as we begin to carefully reopen much-loved library buildings.

“Hand sanitising, hygiene and social distancing arrangements will all be in place and if Personal Protective Equipment is necessary it will be distributed to staff and volunteers where appropriate.

“We will be running an ‘order and collect’ service to start with – so no browsing - and there will be limited numbers of visitors allowed in at any one time.”

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Cannock, Lichfield, Perton and Tamworth libraries will open on Monday, July 20, with Burntwood, Codsall, Rugeley, Stone, and Wombourne scheduled for Monday, July 27.

All libraries will initially open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sandwell's libraries will not be reopening yet as council bosses work out how to safely reopen the venues. Deputy leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said: “We are working hard to identify how we will safely open our museums and libraries to the public and that work will continue. We will make announcements on when we are able to reopen our visitor attractions as soon as we have plans in place.”

Wolverhampton Council's libraries will also not reopen.

A spokesman for the authority said: "Wolverhampton Council’s libraries will not be reopening on Saturday – an announcement about plans for their safe reopening will follow in due course.

"In the meantime, library members are reminded they can continue to borrow the latest eBooks and eAudiobooks via the free BorrowBox service."

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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