Library service praised for Covid response
10 Mar 2021
Residents across Northumberland have praised the county’s library service for the support it has continued to offer during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite libraries being closed for many months during the various lockdowns the service has been able to continue to help its members, and non members, with a number of new initiatives.
During February alone 616 books were delivered to more than 200 customers through the library service’s Doorstep Delivery scheme. In previous lockdowns staff delivered a total of 2,785 items for the doorsteps of 1,131 customers.
Library customers who have been missing their regular visit to their local branch have also received a welcome call from staff to check on them. Staff have now made 1,680 calls through the Befriending Calls scheme ensuring residents don’t become isolated and lonely, with one customer in Haltwhistle saying she “looked forward to the calls and enjoys being able to talk through plans for the future, including visiting the library”.
Through funding from The Reading Agency the Befriending service has been extended as part of the Reading Friends initiative and a number of virtual New Mums groups have also been set up. The intention is to support those groups to either continue virtually, or if the members wish, move to face-to-face meetings when libraries re-open.
Despite members being unable to browse books in the library for themselves, when restrictions allowed, several libraries have also continued to offer a Select and Collect service where residents can request a particular title or genre of book to be collected at a specified time.
The Digital library has also gone from strength to strength with the number of titles issued since March 2020 increasing by 186% and the number of visits to the library website have averaged over 25,500 per month during the same period, compared with an average of 9,000 per month during the same period in 2019.
Staff have also established a Digital Helpline for residents who may be struggling with getting online or accessing the internet. A digital device loaning scheme was also piloted in late 2020 with one library user, who was able to use the scheme, saying the device had helped him to secure employment.
Cllr Jeff Watson, cabinet member for the library service at Northumberland County Council said: “The way the library service has responded to the current Covid-19 crisis has been nothing short of phenonmenal.
“Staff have gone the extra mile to ensure that members, and non-members, have continued to feel supported and connected. In many ways the pandemic has expedited the service’s digital offer and it is something we can build on and develop further once our libraries re-open.”