Huge take-up of digital library services during lockdown

Libraries across Cambridgeshire are making plans to reopen on July 4.

Libraries across Cambridgeshire are making plans to reopen on July 4. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council has outlined plans to begin re-opening libraries and archives from July 4.

The authority says this will be done in a well managed way to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, but it wants to build on innovation developed during lockdown.

A report which goes to the council’s Communities and Partnerships Committee on Thursday (July 2) confirms a massive additional take-up of digital library services since the lockdown began with resources issued more than tripling to 40,000 a month, and a large increase of use in social media channels.

In a move to support the shielded community, the library service, in partnership with Cambridgeshire Skills, City College Peterborough and Civic, designed and delivered a new website. Open New Doors, provides a variety of activities, experiences and learning opportunities, and an expanded Libraries at Home service has also been delivering books to the doorsteps of the most vulnerable.

This experience and the “tremendous uptake” of the online offer means the library service will look to expand by developing a business case for a bus sized vehicle which will take technology and assets into more isolated communities, giving them access to more services, support and opportunities – usually only available from a library building.

Council members will hear that nine libraries will be offering a new ‘select and collect’ service, where books can be chosen in advance and collected at pre-booked times. To combat digital exclusion, libraries will also begin offering public access IT services based on 45-minute pre-booked appointments, with machines being cleaned between each user.

“Despite the lockdown, work has continued to develop and deliver the new libraries vision, agreed by our committee last December.” said Cllr Steve Criswell, chairman of the Communities and Partnerships Committee.

Most Read

“That vision firmly places libraries both at the core of the council’s business and at the heart of our communities, and describes how the library service needs to be more than the buildings they operate from. Unlike other areas of the country we are developing this service and using our experiences during lockdown to help us.”

Mobile libraries won’t be able restart immediately because of problems in maintaining social distancing in such small spaces.

Archives will also begin to reopen from July on an appointments only basis to begin with, and all documents must be pre-booked to ensure safety and to minimise risk.