LOCAL libraries will not be reopening this weekend, St Helens Borough Council has confirmed.

Across the country, libraries will begin to open their doors from July 4 after shutting back in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately in St Helens, that won’t be happening, and the council has not given a date for when they will finally welcome back the public.

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When they do reopen, service users can expect a noticeably different experience, with a number of restrictions in place to ensure the safety of the staff and public are maintained.

Cllr Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s cabinet member for public health, leisure, libraries, arts and heritage, said: “The reopening of library buildings is part of the council’s reset and recovery programme, and officers have been working on plans for the safe reopening of libraries for some weeks.

“Deep cleans have been ongoing and building risk assessments have been undertaken as part of this.

“The council is very much at the forefront of the approach and we have been working with Libraries Connected, the national umbrella organisation for Library Services, to help produce guidance to help libraries reopen.

“Our reopening plan covers issues such as risk management, social distancing, behaviour management, cleaning, hygiene and communication.

“Officers are compiling all of this data and finalising our reopening plan which we will share at the earliest opportunity.”

Since the closure of the borough’s libraries, St Helens has seen demand for its library’s digital offerings soar.

Even when the libraries eventually reopen, the council will be keen to build on this shift.

What that means for the future of physical libraries, which are among the  services affected worst by austerity, remains to be seen.

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For now, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the full range of services St Helens Libraries are offering.

Cllr Burns said: “Our library service has continued its great work during the lockdown period, with the home delivery service delivering books to more than 172 households, and the digital service has seen 12,940 loans of digital material.

“In addition, staff have also conducted online events, such as the hugely popular Read and Rhyme Time, so that our families can participate with other members of their local community.”