The Importance of Libraries in Lockdown
Luke Burton explores what libraries can offer when physical buildings are closed
Like so many organisations during these strange and difficult times, libraries have had to develop new and different ways of working to ensure we can support citizens even when they cannot visit us. Despite all of our buildings being closed we feel that libraries can, and should, support people in alternative ways.
In a report by Carnegie Trust UK published in 2017, 72% of people surveyed in England thought that libraries were essential to their community whereas only 40% felt they were essential for them personally (Peachey, 2017). In responding to the UK wide lockdown, we feel that libraries can demonstrate their value to everyone in the community in some key ways - that will still be true when buildings are open again.
Libraries have a role to play in keeping people entertained, amused and distracted especially during a time of difficulty. Through our social media channels (Facebook: Newcastle Libraries, Instagram: ToonLibraries and Twitter: ToonLibraries) we are providing access to recorded story time, online jigsaws, crafting how-to videos as well as signposting people to a range of online resources provided by all sorts of organisations.
Reading for pleasure is core to the public libraries offer and research suggests that adults and children who read are happier, healthier and more confident than those who don’t read (Libraries Taskforce, 2016). During lockdown, Newcastle Libraries are continuing to offer access to high quality eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines having increased the number of titles and making it easier to join online. To find out more about our eBooks and to join online visit: tiny.cc/libraryclosed
Public libraries also have an important role to play in educating and informing people whether it is supporting formal learning or helping people pick up new skills and knowledge informally.
While people are social distancing, they can continue to access some really useful and interesting online resources like dictionaries and encyclopaedias to help with school work and answer tricky trivia questions (no cheating on online pub quizzes though!). If you are doing family history research, you can access historic newspapers or if you are looking to sit your driving test once lockdown is over then you can practice your driving theory test. Find out more about our resources here: www.newcastle.gov.uk/24hourlibrary
Public Libraries have long been involved in providing business information and support. Business & IP Centre Newcastle is part of a national network of business and intellectual property centres; you can still answer parts of this service during the current lockdown including access to resources and you can email with any questions you have about starting, running or researching a business. Find out more at BIPC Newcastle.
At one time libraries were gateways to information where citizens could ask for access to reliable sources of information, ask librarians a question and be assured they were being supported by professionals using reliable information.
With the advent of the internet there has never been a more important time for libraries, librarians and library workers. There are so many websites on every topic claiming to have the latest news, the most useful information or the latest cure. However, just because it is on the internet doesn’t mean it is true. Particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak we see all sorts of information claiming to have a cure, know where it came from or how to stop its spread. Now, more than ever it is vital that people are using reliable sources of information, questioning where their information is coming from and who is saying what and for what reasons.
This is at the heart of what libraries and library workers offer. Access to reliable, well researched source of information and resources and training to help everyone develop what we call information literacy skills.
On our social media platforms, we will also signpost people to reliable sources of information, encourage them to be inquisitive and challenge where they read/see things that don’t seem true. One way you can do this is to download the Newsguard plug-in for your web browser. Free to download until 1 July it helps you to understand how reliable and trustworthy a website that you are looking at is. Find more information here: https://www.newsguardtech.com/.
And when our libraries open again, we will be so happy to welcome you back in to our safe, free to access buildings where you can access services with no pre-judgement or pre-qualifications. As well as being able to access all these online resources you’ll be able to use our buildings and physical resources, for free! Libraries are safe, trusted spaces with knowledgeable, compassionate and caring staff there to help everyone that contacts us in person, online or over the phone.
We are here for all citizens and will try and find the answer to any and every question. So, visit our website, keep an eye on our social media channels and we can’t wait to see you in one of our libraries!
Libraries Taskforce (2016),
Libraries deliver: ambition for public libraries in England 2016-21 [Online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-deliver-ambition-for-public-libraries-in-england-2016-to-2021
(Accessed 14 April 2020).
Peachey, J. (2017),
Shining a light: the future of public libraries across the UK and Ireland. Carnegie UK Trust, Dunfermline [Online]. Available at: https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/shining-a-light/
(Accessed 14 April 2020)
Did you know?
Luke Burton is Service Manager of Newcastle Community Hubs & Libraries
Libraries have a role to play in keeping people entertained, amused and distracted especially during a time of difficulty.