As lockdown restrictions across the UK begin to ease to varying degrees, some businesses, venues and services have been tentatively reopening their doors to the public.
Libraries were closed around the country in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus back in March.
But as England moves into phase 2 of lockdown from 1 June, here’s what the government has said about libraries being able to welcome back readers.
When will libraries reopen?
According to the UK government's roadmap to lift lockdown restrictions in England, venues such as libraries will open in step three of the plan.
The document explains: “The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons), hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodations), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas).”
Libraries are included in these services mentioned.
This step, according to the government, will be “no earlier than 4 July”.
Venues that reopen will be required to adhere to Covid-19 secure guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.
Can I use any library services now?
When lockdown restrictions began to ease, the government released a list of businesses and venues that “must remain closed”, with libraries included in the list.
There are some exceptions to this rule though, with the government stating: “Digital library services and those where orders are taken electronically, by telephone or by post (for example no-contact Home Library Services) may continue.”
Many libraries offer online services - you can find out more about what your library offers by signing up.
You can do this via the government website here.
What is the government doing to help libraries?
Earlier in May, the government unveiled new ministerial-led task forces that have been created to help plan how closed sectors can reopen safely.
The announcement said: “These task forces will be crucial to the reopening of Britain's economy and each one will lead on developing new Covid-19 secure guidelines for the reopening of public places and businesses, where and when it is safe to do so.”
One of the task forces, managed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, looks after libraries, as well as other recreation and leisure facilities.
Headed up by Oliver Dowden, the task force will help develop safe ways for libraries and other creative venues to operate, and feed back issues and concerns to the government.