Coronavirus: Libraries reopen with reserve and collect service

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Books are available to reserve online, or librarians can make a selection for users

Library services are partially reopening in Cardiff to offer residents a reserve and collect book service.

Four library hubs around the city will offer readers collection appointments for items they have pre-booked online or over the telephone.

Delivery services will be available for people who are shielding or self-isolating due to coronavirus.

Torfaen library service has also begun offering a similar service and Caerphilly is set to follow next month.

The four hubs - Cardiff Central Library, Ely & Caerau Hub, St Mellons Hub and The Powerhouse, Llandedeyrn - have remained open during the coronavirus lockdown for certain services such as money and benefits advice, but have not been dispensing books.

The loan period remains three weeks, and books will have to be returned to the same hub.

What have libraries been offering?

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Image caption,
Cardiff Central Library is one of four hubs opening for collections

Books will be quarantined and cleaned before they are reused, and will not be shared between hubs.

Residents who book using the service will be given an allocated time slot to collect their choices.

Alternatively, people can ring a new phone line where they will be offered a selection of five books based on their interests and genre preferences.

First Minister Mark Drakeford had announced back at the start of May that councils could begin the work on how to safely reopen services.

While Cardiff is one of the first council areas in Wales to resume some form of physical book lending, all councils have been offering free e-book and e-audiobook loans via online services during the lockdown.

Lynda Thorne, cabinet member for housing and communities, said it was a "positive step" towards a phased reopening of libraries.

"This is just the first step on the road to recovery for our hub services and we will monitor and review the success of the click and collect service as we look to bring more services back to our hubs and libraries in future phases," she added.

Caerphilly has also announced it will begin a phased return of services in July, with a re-introduction and expansion of its LibraryLink outreach service for vulnerable people.

The service will initially offer books to current subscribers, those who have received shielding letters of any age and residents over 70 who have no access to e-books.

Torfaen's service will offer books via telephone and email requests which staff will try to fulfil if requested titles are available.

A spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association said it was not issuing any guidance to authorities as yet, adding: "Each authority will decide how best to reintroduce library services in their areas as they see fit, in line with social distancing and hygiene measures."

Are there risks to handling books?

Cilip, the UK's library and information association, gives guidance on its website about the possible coronavirus risks to handling books for staff and the public.

Quoting Public Health England advice, it says the risk of picking up a paper hardback book handled by someone with the virus is negligible after 24 hours.

A book covered in plastic has a negligible risk after 72 hours.

Cardiff council has confirmed it will be quarantining books for 72 hours in line with Welsh Government advice.

So customers should feel reassured in using them. There is currently no advice being given to customers in Cardiff to clean books themselves.