Question marks remain over when or how libraries in Norfolk will reopen

It remains unclear when Norfolk's libraries will reopen - or what they will be like when they do. Pi

It remains unclear when Norfolk's libraries will reopen - or what they will be like when they do. Picture: Hannah Hutchins/National Centre for Writing - Credit: Hannah Hutchins/National Centre

Plans to get Norfolk’s libraries re-opened again are being worked on - but council bosses are tight-lipped about how they would run when they do.

Libraries, which have been shut since March, are currently not allowed to open under the government’s coronavirus rules.

Like pubs, restaurants and hairdressers, the government says libraries cannot open until July 4 at the earliest, and only then if infection rates stay down.

Some councils have started to publish details of when their libraries might reopen, but Norfolk County Council has given no detail about its 47 libraries or the mobile library service.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are currently developing detailed plans for reopening our libraries when restrictions are lifted - and the measures needed for keeping both the public and our staff safe, following Public Health England guidance.”

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However, if the situation in Suffolk is any barometer, then it may, initially, be a fairly limited service when the doors of libraries are opened once again.

Suffolk County Council has said its libraries will start to reopen from Monday, July 6. Beccles is due to open then, Lowestoft the next day and Bungay on Tuesday, July 14.

But people will not be able to browse through books. They will need to call or contact the council online to request a selection of titles, based on genre or author, to collect, rather then specific titles.

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Returns and issues will need to be made with self-service machines, with no cash payments and only card payments accepted.

People will not be allowed to use computers in libraries.

Last month, Independent Norfolk county councillor Mick Castle tabled a question to the council’s Conservative controlled cabinet if it might be possible to get some libraries open again.

He said libraries were an “essential service” for many people, with access to computers “an absolute requirement for folks applying for and maintaining eligibility to state benefits”.

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said at that time, when libraries did reopen, “computer access for the most vulnerable” would be one of the most important functions to recover first.

However, the need for social distancing and proper hygiene controls could mean public computers remain off limits.

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