Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has confirmed that current restrictions on libraries will be relaxed to allow their reopening in a manner which maximises safety for the public and staff.
The Executive yesterday confirmed the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (NI) Regulations 2020 will be lifted to allow libraries to reopen from mid-July.
The Department has worked closely with Libraries NI to establish appropriate measures to ensure the reopening of Libraries will be as safe as possible.
Minister Ní Chuilín praised Libraries NI for their hard work during lockdown to deliver a range of services to their customers.
The Minister said: “During the period of lockdown, Libraries NI has worked hard to minimise the disruption to customers by delivering a range of enhanced online services. This has included providing services such as rhythm and rhyme online, an increase in the promotion of eBooks and the provision of technology allowing the browsing of online newspapers. There has been a substantial take-up of these online services.
“However, some people are not able, or do not wish to access online services. These customers are often amongst those who are most socially isolated in society. The reopening of libraries, which are a key part of our social fabric, will help these individuals and improve their lives by creating a sense of returning to a new normal.
“Libraries NI is a highly professional and capable organisation. I am confident that they will be able to reopen in a way that minimises risk to their staff and the general public.”
Libraries NI has stated that it has plans in place to reopen libraries with a ‘book and collect’ service alongside a phased programme of reintroducing browsing and limited IT services.
Due to the very high number of books borrowed before lockdown, Libraries NI is asking customers in advance of reopening to return borrowed items to their local library, if possible, with times to be announced. Libraries NI will continue to renew books for customers in the interim and further announcements will be made on Libraries NI’s website (www.librariesni.org.uk) and social media channels regarding opening dates, order times, returns and collections for each branch.