CILIP has welcomed the recognition of public libraries as "essential services", but the professional body is calling for "better use of evidence" in the government’s Covid-19 response, expressing concern members could be exposed to "undue risk".
Legislation went before Parliament yesterday (4th November) allowing libraries to provide order-and-collect services, home and schools library services, and to open to provide PC access.
In a statement, CILIP welcomed the new regulations for public library services in England, believing it is important for people to retain the ability to access essential services during the lockdown in order to preserve their welfare. At the same time, it called on employers to work with library staff and unions to ensure that service provision is "Covid-safe", particularly in schools, colleges and universities which will remain open under the new rules.
CILIP c.e.o. Nick Poole said: "We absolutely welcome the recognition of public libraries by the government as ‘essential services’. It has been great to support the huge increase in public interest in books and reading during lockdown. The exemptions announced today for public libraries recognise our wider role in keeping people safe, informed, connected and entertained during the pandemic.
"At the same time, we need to ensure that our national pandemic response is driven by evidence and informed decision-making rather than politics. That’s why we’re calling on Boris Johnson and the Cabinet to work with us on a national programme to boost media and information literacy – empowering the public to make better use of information to keep themselves safe at this critical time."
The CILIP statement highlights the different arrangements for public libraries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and provides guidance for public librarians in England on sources of up-to-date guidance on the new regulations.
According to Public Libraries News, at least 57 out of 150 public library services in England will be offering services of some description during the second lockdown period, with "click and collect" being by far the most common, and bookable PCs also making a strong showing. Due to the timing of the government decision, many have yet to publicise the services they will be running.
Isobel Hunter, c.e.o. of Libraries Connected, said: "As we supported libraries though the reopening process we had three main priorities, protecting staff and users, supporting vulnerable residents, and safeguarding the future of libraries. Libraries around the country have put an enormous amount of work and resources into to achieving this for their communities so we are delighted that the government has recognised their efforts and the critical services that they provide during this crisis. Computers and WiFi in libraries are vital for people who have no other way to access essential online services and we hope these proposals will be agreed today so that libraries can continue to support some of the most vulnerable people in their local communities."
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