Most library authorities in England are providing a click and collect service during lockdown, despite calls from some organisations to withdraw it.
Under current government rules, libraries are allowed to remain open for digital services or click and collect.
According to a tally kept by Public Libraries News, around two-thirds of library services in England are providing click and collect, with the majority of those in Wales also taking it up.
However, the Unison union has called for libraries to be completely closed to safeguard employees in the pandemic, while CILIP has also recommended withdrawing click and collect.
CILIP said face-to-face physical services at public libraries ought to be withdrawn if they risked encouraging people to contravene lockdown rules.
A spokesperson said: “In light of the continued spread of coronavirus, particularly the new variant, it is of the utmost importance that the current restrictions are effective. While we appreciate the disruption that the withdrawal of services may cause, we believe that it is advisable to avoid anything which might encourage people to expose themselves or others to undue risk.”
The organisation has pointed out the situation is further complicated for libraries in higher education institutions, which have been specifically requested to maintain face-to-face support for learners and researchers
CILIP said: “We will continue to liaise with the Department of Education to represent our concern for the safety and security of members in academic and research libraries and information services. We also believe that it is in the interests of the safety and security of library and information staff to be supported in pivoting to online provision, rather than being compelled to work from a physical location where this puts their own safety or security at risk.”
However, Isobel Hunter, chief executive of advocacy group Libraries Connected, said it should be up to local authorities to decide what services they would provide.
She said: “We welcome the fact that the government has recognised that public libraries provide essential services to their communities during periods of lockdown, when access to IT, books and resources is vital for many residents and their families.
“Libraries Connected believes the safety of staff, volunteers and library users is paramount. We have worked with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive to produce guidance for library services to operate in a Covid-secure manner.
“We have also worked with DCMS [the Department for Culture, Media & Sport] to clarify what services libraries can deliver in each Tier and under the new national lockdown in England, and the decisions on what to deliver should then be made at the local level."
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