Libraries reopen - what you need to know

Watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost


For many of us books, stories and escapism have been vital to get us through the mundane months of lockdown. So, for bookworms, libraries reopening will be welcomed, but the current trip to the library won’t be what we’re used to. 

Libraries have joined the growing list of services reopening in our region.

The services you will be able to access at your local library when it does reopen will be limited.

All are offering returns facilities, but not all are allowing readers to browse.

Those that are letting you take a look will be limiting numbers and guiding you to follow one way routes around the shelves.

At Essex Libraries, browsing time is also capped at 15 minutes. 

Essex Libraries' is imposing a 15 minute time limit on browsing. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Libraries are encouraging users not to touch books they aren’t intending to borrow.

At Chelmsford Library there are boxes for visitors to put books in they have handled but aren’t taking out.

Books at libraries that are handled or returned will be put into a 72 hour quarantine before they’re put back on the shelves. 

To replace browsing time many, like those in Hertfordshire, are offering a ‘Select and Collect’ service where users pick their books online or over the phone and then pick them up in person.

Some libraries have also put together ‘book bundles’ of titles that are appropriate for a certain age or topic, so users don’t have to browse. 

But libraries aren’t just about books, many of our libraries are community hubs, where people meet, read, study, use computers or take part in workshops or parent and toddler groups such as ‘Rhymetime’.

For now, all libraries have cancelled these groups and aren’t allowing users to stay inside the library to study, a few are offering their IT facilities, with users able to book computer slots, but it will be a while before they return to being the hubs they used to. 

Essex County Councillor Susan Barker says the demand for ebooks increased during lockdown. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Whilst libraries have been physically closed and groups unable to meet in person, our libraries have been flourishing online.

Their Facebook and Youtube pages are packed with content including storytime, rhymetime and crafts for children, as well as book reviews, recommendations and wellbeing workshops for adults.

Suffolk Libraries’ says over the last three months, it’s had:

  • 6,882 Youtube views

  • 70,686 e-books and audiobooks issued

  • 82,152 interactions on it's social media pages

  • 1,003 new members 

Lockdown may have re-ignited a love for reading and it has certainly pushed the progression of our libraries offering online. 

More information on what your local library is offering can be found by clicking on your county: