Pick-and-collect library service rolled out in County Durham

A COLLECTION service introduced to help people in County Durham access library books is to be extended.

Durham County Council introduced its pick-and-collect service earlier this month to enable people to borrow books for the first time since lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Although anyone can use the service regardless of where in the county they live or which library they normally visit, collection points were initially located at only nine libraries – Barnard Castle, Chester-le-Street, Consett; Crook, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee, Seaham, Woodhouse Close, in Bishop Auckland; and Belmont, in Durham.

However, from Monday this will be extended to include Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Easington, Sedgefield, Shildon, Spennymoor, Stanley, Thornley, Wolsingham; and Clayport and Newton Hall, in Durham.

The pick and collect service enables members of the public to order up to three books online or over the phone. They are then contacted by the library service, using their registered number, to arrange a collection day when they will be able to pick up their chosen titles from a participating library.

Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “We introduced our pick and collect service as a way of enabling people to access books, while also prioritising the safety of customers and staff.

“We initially chose nine sites from which to operate the scheme so that we could make sure we were able to provide a high level of service while maintaining social distancing. I am pleased to say that this has been very successful, with almost a thousand people using it within the first two weeks of operation. We are, therefore, now in a position to increase the number of collection points.”

The libraries chosen for the first two phases of the scheme have been selected because busy libraries, which also offer sufficient space to provide the essential elements of the pick and collect service. This includes space for visitors to queue safely prior to entry and for a quarantine area to be created for returned books.

The chosen sites also offer a good geographical spread of locations around the county.

None of the libraries will be open for browsing. All other library services, including access to public computers, will remain suspended for the time being although the council is currently looking at how these services can be reinstated over the coming weeks.

Libraries across the country were forced to close in March in response to Government guidance on preventing the spread of coronavirus. Since then, library users in County Durham have been able to access online services, with an extended digital offer including more eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobook titles and free access to research tool Ancestry.

These services will continue alongside a temporary Doorstep Book Delivery service, which was introduced during the lockdown period to provide books for isolated and vulnerable Books on Wheels library users.

During the summer, younger readers are being encouraged to take part in the national Summer Reading Challenge, which is has this year gone online. The Silly Squad-themed event offers youngsters the chance to play games, earn badges and receive rewards as they discover new a host of new books. More information is available at https://api.readingagency.org.uk. Participating pick and collect sites will also be offering giveaway prizes.

Pick and collect is available via Library Online service or by calling one of the participating libraries.

For more information, including contact details for participating libraries, visit www.durham.gov.uk.

Yorkshire Evening Post