FOLLOWING the government’s recent announcement, libraries managed by Dorset Council will start a phased a re-opening from July 8.
The initial re-opening plans, focussed on the safety of customers and library employees, will provide existing users with an order and collect service.
People will be able to order their preferred categories of books and other items to collect at an allocated time from 22 of Dorset’s 23 libraries.
Books will be available to order online at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/libraries from July 8 by simply completing a short form about reading preferences. For those without online access, an order can be made by phoning 01305 228400.
The service is available for all ages – for adults, young people and children. There will be a bag of up to 10 books and other items such as talking books or DVDs waiting for collection. These will be based on the type of books people normally select for themselves such as romance or crime. The items can be borrowed for up to four weeks.
The collections and returns process will be contactless and pre-arranged time slots mean the number of people visiting at any one time can be managed. All books will be quarantined in line with national guidance.
From today (July 6), people will be able to return books and other items currently on loan via library letterboxes, except for at Beaminster Library.
All current loans that would have been due back during the lockdown period have been extended to the end of August. Any overdue charges that customers might have incurred as a result of library closures due to COVID-19 have been waived.
Later in July, further services will be available at nine Dorset libraries. These are: Blandford, Bridport, Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Sherborne, Wareham, Weymouth and Wimborne.
Initially, opening hours will be reduced and a limited number of visitors will be allowed in the buildings at any one time.
There will be the opportunity for people to browse the books and reserve use of the public access computers. More information will be made available on www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/libraries
Activities and events, such as rhyme time and reading groups, which have been highly popular online during lockdown, will continue to be internet-based for the time being. The increased number of e-books and publications, including newspapers and magazines, will also continue to be available online.
Councillor Tony Alford, Customer, Community and Regulatory Services portfolio holder for Dorset Council said: “During lockdown, our library teams worked hard to minimise the disruption to customers by offering a range of fun and informative services via the internet.
“We saw a tremendous increase in new online subscribers during lockdown. However, I know many people missed the human interaction a visit to the library can give.
“Although libraries are going to look and feel very different as they re-open with limited services on offer, I am sure customers will be pleased to physically access their local library again and have a much-needed refresh of their reading material.
“The library teams are excited about returning to some normality too, although things will obviously be very different for a while!”
Plans to extend the services of Dorset’s remaining 14 council-managed will be developed based on the learning and experience of opening the initial 9 libraries, putting the health and safety of customers and employees first at all times.
The council is also liaising with the eight independent community managed libraries about their plans for re-opening.