Walsall libraries to stay closed as council leader launches review

There will be no immediate reopening of libraries in a Black Country borough while strict Covid restrictions remain in place, council bosses have said.

Aldridge District Library (pic. Walsall Council)
Aldridge District Library (pic. Walsall Council)

Walsall was the only borough in the region not to have any library service during the recent national lockdown.

It operated a “ring and read” scheme from July until the lockdown started on November 5, when all services including the mobile library were suspended.

Although Government guidance says libraries in Tier 3 areas such as Walsall are allowed to reopen, council leader Mike Bird said they will remain closed for the time being.

He said a review has been launched into library provision in the borough, with no decision expected until January.

Mr Bird said: “We are reviewing the situation at the moment but we are not planning to reopen all the libraries at the drop of a hat.

“We are looking at a phased approach. I’m a firm believer that if we haven’t used something for the past four or five months, do we really need it?

“We are looking at all our libraries, and considering strategically where we need to reopen. Then we will be looking at the staffing arrangements we have got.

"The review is destined for a Cabinet decision in January."

The move impacts the borough's seven libraries in Lichfield Street, Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston, Willenhall and Streetly.

In a recent letter to library staff, service manager David Gill confirmed there would be “no immediate reopening” of libraries.

He added: “I know that many of you have expressed frustration that Walsall has been alone in the region in providing no service from its libraries during lockdown despite the government exemption.

“I want to assure you all that we shall be aiming to have our libraries reopened at least for ‘ring and read’ as soon as this is possible.”

The council had planned to introduce a ‘grab and go’ service in August, allowing small numbers of library users to access bookshelves, but the scheme never got off the ground.

Wolverhampton Council has operated a “select and collect” service from libraries during the lockdown, using online reservations.

Sandwell Council has reopened Central Library in West Bromwich and Wednesbury Library on an appointment only basis, while books can be reserved online.

Libraries in Dudley and Staffordshire are offering a take away service.

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