Wiltshire Council is continuing its phased approach to reopening libraries in the county, with a further 11 libraries set to open in the coming weeks, three later this month and eight by the end of September.
This plan follows the reopening of three of Wiltshire’s larger libraries this week, in Chippenham, Salisbury and Trowbridge.
The schedule follows a recent Wiltshire Council public consultation on reopening some library services during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 7,000 people took part, with many stating their desire for the council to prioritise reopening as many libraries as possible, with different services available depending on the conditions at each individual library.
The findings have helped the council to develop this phased approached to reopening libraries across the county. The approach will be reviewed monthly to test new services and ways of operating, and to adapt to changing conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Corsham, Devizes and Warminster libraries will reopen in the week beginning 24 August. These libraries will be fully reopened for people to browse for up to 30 minutes, to select and loan books and bookable computers; though they will be operating different opening hours, and with safety measures in place to ensure social distancing and keep people as safe as possible.
Then, during September, Amesbury, Bradford-on-Avon, Calne, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Melksham, Royal Wootton Bassett and Westbury libraries will all reopen to the public. They will be offering an order and collect service with bookable computers. A service that allows people to browse in these libraries will be introduced as soon as it’s feasible to do so.
This mix of approaches allows additional libraries to reopen and provides increased coverage across the county sooner than would be possible with only a browsable service.
Cllr Ian Blair-Pilling, Cabinet Member for Libraries, said: “We want to get these library services open for our residents as soon as possible, and we’re working hard to prepare these 11 sites to ensure they are ready and safe for people to visit.
“We had a fantastic 7,000 respondents to our consultation, and I’d like to say a huge thank you everyone who took the time to give us their views and suggestions. We had lots of interesting and innovative ideas for reopening, and we will look to test many of these as we seek to learn from our experiences of reopening libraries in these unprecedented times.
“This measured, phased reopening of library services will help to ensure the safety of our staff and the public, while making the best use of our current resources and finances.
“I’d also like to thank the public for their patience during this period. We are looking forward to welcoming people back to a further 11 of our libraries once again in the coming weeks.”
More information about the continued reopening of these library services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including reopening dates and times, will be confirmed in due course.
The decision to reopen these 11 libraries, and the phased approach agreed, is subject to a five-day call-in period for councillors.
The council is currently looking at options to deliver the mobile library service during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a decision expected in early September; the remaining libraries will be subject to discussions with key stakeholders in a series of facilitated workshops, with libraries in community areas where no other library is open a priority for these conversations.