Wokingham Borough News|

With Covid-19 cases rising at a rapid rate across the Borough and following the four-week lockdown being announced by central government, a decision has been made to temporarily move our two remaining open libraries in Wokingham and Woodley to a virtual offering only; with leisure centres also closing during this time.

This will mean library staff and employees within the borough council’s sport and leisure team can be redeployed into other front-line services to help manage the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable within our communities. The closures will come into effect as of Thursday 5 November, in line with the national lockdown.

Any overdue fines will remain suspended while both library sites close and residents are encouraged to continue using the libraries’ online services for e-books and audio during this time. Alternative arrangements are being made with regards to waste receptacles and bags, which have been available for collection from the libraries, and more information will follow on this later in the week.

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment and leisure said: “The government has clearly stated that leisure centres will not remain open to the public for leisure activities during the national lockdown. While there hasn’t been any specific guidance for libraries as of yet, we feel it’s important to act now. As such, on top of the temporary closure of our leisure centres, we have made the decision to close our library buildings in Wokingham and Woodley and they will remain closed for the foreseeable future until infection rates reduce and it is safe to reopen them. We apologise to residents for an inconvenience this may cause. However, this is an important step we are taking to ensure we are set-up in the best way possible to cope with the second wave of Covid-19 and protect our most vulnerable residents, particularly as infections are rising by the day.

“Library employees and those working in the borough council’s sport and leisure team will be re-deployed to critical roles that will help support our efforts in tackling community spread as quickly as possible. In particular, we need extra resource in our dedicated tracing team, who are following up by phone with anyone who NHS Test and Trace has been unable to get hold of and ask to self-isolate, and are even visiting homes if they’re still not able to reach people. This is critical to slowing the transmission of the virus across the Borough.

“The resilience and flexibility of our staff has been key throughout our Covid response, while also ensuring that residents have access to a helpful online offering where possible. We have increased the number of eBooks available for library members, broadcasted Rhymetime and StoryTime videos on our Library Service Facebook page for children and families, launched a new music streaming service, given access to Ancestry.com to research family histories and provided the ability to watch concerts, documentaries, ballets and more online. These services have proved popular with our residents and we will continue to expand our online offering.”

Over 6,000 virtual items are accessed via the digital library every week, with over 4,000 residents viewing Rhymetime and StoryTime sessions. There are also a number of other virtual events for residents to get involved with.

To join Wokingham Borough Libraries online and find out how you can access eBooks, eMagazines, eNewspapers, eComics, audiobooks and more, visit the council website and search libraries.

During the lockdown, all leisure centre membership and lesson payments from (and including) 4 November will be automatically suspended. Annual members will have an extension to their membership, equal to the length of the lockdown. All paid for advance bookings (gym, swim, class, sports and climbing) will be refunded automatically within 14 working days from 5 November. For more information, please contact your leisure centre directly.

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