Bedford Central and Kempston Libraries are to re-open this week, after being closed for almost five months during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Bedford Independent has asked Bedford Borough Council regularly when libraries will reopen.
They confirmed just moments ago that Bedford Central and Kempston libraries will open on Thursday (20 August).
However, it won’t be in the same way many book lovers are used to with a new ‘Select and Collect’ service in place.
This will allow library users to borrow library books safely by making requests online or by calling 01234 718178 from Monday to Saturday between 11.00am and 4.00pm.
Speaking to library staff, customers can ask for specific titles or request a surprise selection based on their favourite subjects or genres.
Once ready, their books can then be picked up from the open libraries. When collecting books, you must wear a face covering unless you have a legitimate reason not to.
Safety measures will be in place for the selection, issuing and packing of books for collection. Returned books will be quarantined for 72 hours.
Due dates for any still out on loan will continue to be extended and charges remain paused for any items that are already overdue.
“This is just the first phase in our library reopening and we look forward to expanding this when we are able to do so safely,” said Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture.
“Libraries are a truly valued local service and I’m really pleased we are able to start opening our libraries, enabling people to borrow and return books again in a safe and COVID-secure way,” he added.
Further announcements about the wider reopening of libraries will be made at a later date.
Gyms and leisure centres remain closed
Bedfordians have expressed frustration at the slow re-opening of some local public facilities in light of the borough’s high coronavirus infection rate
Despite libraries being able to open nationally since 4 July, Bedford Borough Council have kept ours closed.
They say this is to help prevent a spike in coronavirus cases and a possible localised ‘second lockdown’.
Gyms and leisure centres are also still closed with no word yet on when they may re-open or when this may be reviewed.
There has been much criticism of the slow re-opening of publicly owned facilities in the town.
The council maintains this is necessary to help support social distancing and help reduce Bedford’s cases of coronavirus.
However, the council’s own figures show that cases of coronavirus in the area are in decline.
There are now 11 cases per 100,000 locally, a drop of nine from the previous released data.
But the council continues to remain cautious after the Government said previously that Bedford was an “area of concern”.
Bedford Borough had previously seen the highest infection rate in the East of England and remains above the regional average.
Last week, a council spokesperson reiterated their coronavirus advice. “We are urging the public to help avoid a local lockdown,” they said.
“Keep two-metres apart from people other than those you live with, avoiding gatherings, wearing a face covering if you can.
“Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitiser, and book a test if you have any coronavirus symptoms.”
Bedford Borough is just one of several areas throughout the UK who deferred reopening of some public facilities despite the Government given libraries and other public facilities to re-open.
Libraries in Barking and Dagenham, Central Bedfordshire, Calderdale, Ealing, Sandwell and the Wirral all still remain closed.