Bookworms will once again be able to browse the shelves of County Durham libraries from next week.
Durham County Council is set to reopen three quarters of libraries, allowing visitors to choose their own books straight from the shelves for the first time since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March.
The participating libraries will also be offering internet access via its public computers.
The move will also see the end of the council’s successful Pick and Collect service, which was introduced in July to ensure people could still borrow books while libraries were closed. More than 15,000 titles have been borrowed through the service during the past two months.
The libraries reopening on Monday 14 September include all 19 currently offering Pick and Collect. These are Barnard Castle; Wolsingham; Chester-le-Street; Consett; Stanley; Crook; Newton Aycliffe; Peterlee; Seaham; Easington; Sedgefield; Shildon; Spennymoor; Thornley; Woodhouse Close and Bishop Auckland Town Hall, in Bishop Auckland; and Belmont, Clayport and Newton Hall, in Durham.
In addition, libraries at Bowburn; Blackhall; Brandon; Chilton; Cornforth; Lanchester; Langley Park; Murton; Trimdon and Wingate will also be opening on Monday.
Work has been carried out by the council’s building and facilities maintenance team to put measures in place to make the venues as safe as possible. Weekly checks will be carried out and any changes implemented where necessary to keep people safe and in response to any modification to Government guidelines.
It is hoped that the reopening of libraries will encourage more people to visit the county’s towns and villages, supporting local businesses and helping towards the county’s economic recovery from coronavirus.
The libraries reopening next week have been selected because they are the council’s busiest sites, and because they offer sufficient space to provide the essential elements for safe browsing and safe computer use. This includes space for visitors to queue safely before entering the building and for a quarantine area for returned books.
They also provide a good geographical spread of locations around the county.
All other library services, including printing, photocopying, study tables, easy seating and soft furnishings, children’s toys and jigsaws; along with meeting rooms, community room access and events, will remain suspended for the time being although the council is currently looking at how these services can be reinstated over the coming weeks.
Libraries across the country were forced to close in March in response to Government guidance on preventing the spread of coronavirus. Since then, library users in County Durham have been able to access online services, with an extended digital offer including more eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobook titles and free access to research tool Ancestry.
Almost 2,000 people have joined or re-joined to use the council’s online library services, with the number of people registered to use BorrowBox to access eBbooks and eAudiobooks having increased by more than 3,000.
These services will continue alongside Doorstep Book Delivery service, which was introduced during the lockdown period to provide books for isolated and vulnerable Books on Wheels library users.
Library opening hours may differ at each library and will not be in line with their former opening hours.
Anyone can become a member of the library service by visiting Library Online or calling one of the libraries that are reopening.
For more information, including contact details for participating libraries, visit www.durham.gov.uk/libraries or call 03000 260 000.