Time to dust off your library cards

Libraries are set to open again, with restrictions, next Monday.
Photo: Daniel Hocking.

Libraries, along with several other establishments, are set to reopen as soon as next Monday, 18th of May, as a part of a second phase of the government’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

However, like other establishments, libraries still have certain restrictions, such as a maximum patron limitation of 20 people and social distancing guidelines still in place.

The State Library of Western Australia in Perth is no different, reopening on Monday after closing its doors for 56 days.

State Library of Western Australia Communications and Marketing Manager Charles Hayne says the library was busier during those 56 days than when the library was open to the public.

“We got two thousand mystery box orders and had to pack two thousand boxes of books for people, ” says Mr Hayne.

“We had to find a way to be able to give people access in safety to computers, which meant security guards and computers set up in special distances from each other and cleaning machines every time they were used. We had to provide a new service for almost everything.”

With the State Library being one of the many libraries re-opening soon, there are concerns how hygiene will be maintained, with constant contact with books occurring on a regular basis.

“We have to have a system of cleaning … and with books being used and if you have COVID, the germs remain on the paper, alive, for 24 hours, ” he says.

“It has to be put in a special box and is taken away and we can’t look at that book for 24 hours.”

Curtin University Libraries, Archives, Records and Information Science Associate Professor Gaby Haddow says some libraries may not be able to work with the restrictions even though some people rely on libraries.

“One of the issues for libraries and library users is that they are like a community hub with free access and a lot vulnerable and disadvantaged people had been affected,” she says.

Mr Hayne says people relied on the facilities of the State Library both before and during the pandemic.

“Some people come because they have nowhere to stay or live and don’t have access to a computer or the internet,” he says.

He says library staff have been preparing for any potential risks and concerns that may occur during the easing of restrictions.

“Staff have to be aware and risk management has to be put in place, so the staff are safe and that they feel safe.”

An infographic on what will be happening during the reopening of the State Library of Western Australia.
Infographic: Daniel Hocking.