Following the Government’s latest announcements to ease lockdown restrictions, Kent County Council will start a phased reopening of its libraries from Monday, 13 July, with a new ‘Select and Collect’ service that will temporarily replace bookshelf browsing.
The reopening will initially start with 12 of the county’s main town centre libraries and will focus primarily on the Select and Collect service, as well as free PC and WiFi use, which will be bookable in advance.
The 12 libraries scheduled to reopen include:
– Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope
– Dartford Library
– Sittingbourne Library
– Herne Bay Library
– Gravesend Library
– Broadstairs library
– Southborough library
– Deal Library
– Ashford Gateway Plus
– Tonbridge Library
– Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone
– Folkestone Library
James Pearson, KCC’s Head of Libraries, Registration and Archives, said: “Our priority is to make Kent’s libraries as safe as possible, so not all of our services will be available initially.
“Our Select and Collect service will provide a book-borrowing service where orders can be made both online and over the phone, allowing customers to pick their items up from one of the 12 libraries at an agreed date and time. Crucially, the Select and Collect service will avoid the need for physical bookshelf browsing – keeping our customers and staff as safe as possible.”
KCC plans to launch the Select and Collect book ordering service from 7 July. Customers who order items from that date will be contacted and given a time slot to pick up their items when libraries reopen from Monday, 13 July. From that date, the book collection service, along with pre-bookable PC and WiFi usage, will be available from each of the 12 libraries 10am-4pm, Monday to Saturday.
“We know many of our customers have lots of books and other items that they borrowed before the lockdown,” said Mr Pearson. “We can reassure everyone that there will be no overdue charges for any items for this period and we are renewing all items taken out before lockdown until 31 December.”
Customers will be able to return borrowed items to any of the 12 libraries listed to a drop box or a return bin outside one of the 12 open libraries from Tuesday 7 July.
In addition, KCC has already restarted its Home Library Service deliveries, along with its postal loan service to the blind and partially sighted – ensuring it continues to provide crucial services to its most vulnerable customers. KCC expects to restart the mobile library service in late July.
These services complement the various digital library offers currently available online at www.kent.gov.uk/libs – including free online joining, e-books, e-audio books, e-magazines, and e-newspapers.
Mike Hill, KCC Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “We know how important our services and spaces are to the entire community and, subject to Government guidelines, we will be opening additional buildings over the coming months and developing our offer, including the return of bookshelf browsing.
“We appreciate all our customers’ patience and support while we work to restart our services and we look forward to welcoming them back.”
Customers can start using the Select and Collect service from Tuesday 7 July by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/libs or by calling 03000 413131.