Retirement and illness hold back Liverpool libraries

Retirement, demands for reduced hours and illness have impacted Liverpool Council’s ability to provide a full library service.

The local authority is aiming to fully restore its public library service as the city continues its ongoing recovery from Covid-19.

A report on the resumption of the municipality’s library service will go before the select committee for culture and the visitor economy on Tuesday, February 1.

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The document details how Liverpool Libraries and Information Services – which runs the central library, 14 community sites and home library service – managed the initial impact of the pandemic, including moving to digital platforms, expanding its home library service to provide vulnerable users and provide limited physical services at the central library and in select community locations, where possible, in accordance with local and national guidelines.

During the early stages of Covid-19, new services were introduced, including an online cultural offer, and an order and collection service “despite the evolution of the pandemic and revised government instructions”.

The report highlights how heads of authority have worked with unions and health and safety officials to organize comprehensive working protocols for Covid-19 staff and in public spaces to “reduce staff anxiety and encourage a confident return to the workplace” after the end of the last confinement.

However, the two-metre social distancing guidelines mean that the use of public computers cannot yet be offered and will remain unavailable until protocols are revised.

Additionally, it has been identified that three-quarters of the city library staff are over 55 and there have been several retirements, requests to reduce contract hours and temporary contract changes for the responsibilities of care during the pandemic.

The report states: “The resulting reduction in staff resources and increased pressure to increase headcount at sites to deal with cleaning, illness/absence and cover vacancies have impacted our ability to restore services completely.

Recruitment to fill vacancies is ongoing. Once the recruitment process is completed, city officials expect to be able to increase the opening hours of services in Liverpool.

The report will be presented to MPs on Tuesday.

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