Marlborough’s Library, along with all other Libraries in the Wiltshire Council area has been shut since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council is embarking on a programme of consultation to ‘make sure the library services they provide meet the needs of people safely and are as innovative in their delivery as possible’.
There are three possible options being considered:
An order and collect service
This involves customers contacting the library service by email/phone to request books or other materials that they wish to borrow. This might include specific authors or topics such as crime or autobiographies. These would then be collected in person from a library.
This would operate from 10 August at some main library hubs in Wiltshire, and in each of the eighteen community areas across the county by the end of September. This means that twenty libraries could potentially be open by the end of September, subject to staff and finances being available.
An order and collect service with bookable computer access
The order and collect service as detailed above and the ability to pre-book a computer session for those without access to the internet.
This would operate from 10 August at some main library hubs in Wiltshire and in each community area across the county by the end of September.
A socially distanced service offering the public some access to browse stock and use computers. This would operate in up to six libraries from the end of August and a maximum of a further four, subject to staff capacity and social distancing requirements.
The four week consultation process is now underway and can be accessed via the Wiltshire Council website. Hard copies will be made available at County Hall, Trowbridge; Monkton Park, Chippenham; and Bourne Hill, Salisbury. The consultation closes on 26 July 2020.
Following analysis of the feedback received, the favoured option will likely be introduced initially for a six-month period from 10 August. Monthly reviews will also be carried out to assess how the impact of COVID-19 is changing, the financial impact of operating, lessons learnt and the opportunities for change.
Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “People are rightly passionate about their libraries and that’s been evident in the astonishing take-up of our online services since lockdown in March. We’re taking this opportunity to think about how we reopen the service safely, carefully and in a phased way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have suggested some possible options on how we may reopen library services, but we really need people to share their thoughts and ideas on we can overcome the challenges we face at this time. We’re looking forward to hearing what people think.”
In the meantime, the Wiltshire Council libraries service offer a range of online resources. They can be found at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/libraries-online-resources.
In the background is Wiltshire Council’s current financial plight, which is already impacting on a range of services and activities of the Council. Last week there were reports that Wiltshire Council, along with three other authorities were on the point of issuing a ‘Section 114’ notice – i.e. declaring bankruptcy. On Friday (26 June), the Council issued a statement to the contrary stating that this was ‘a last resort’ and, according to Leader Cllr Philip Whitehead “not something we’re contemplating at the moment”.