Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (302)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

302. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands when libraries will reopen to the public under current NPHET recommendations; if plans are in place for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26137/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Community)

My Department has policy responsibility for public libraries only. The provision of public library services is a matter for each local authority in their capacity as library authorities under the Local Government Act 2001.

Library Authorities are providing services in accordance with the 5 levels outlined in the Government's "Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19".

For areas with Level 1 and Level 2 restrictions in place, the majority of public libraries will be open to the public with protective measures, including social distancing and one-way traffic in the building, with the numbers permitted to enter linked to the capacity of the building.

For areas with Level 3 restrictions in place, public libraries will be closed but online services and a "Contact and Collect" service will be available. The Dublin libraries are currently operating under this level.

For areas with Level 4 and 5 restrictions in place, all public libraries will be closed but online services will continue to be available.

Currently, 262 out of 323 public libraries are open. Some of the smaller branches may not open for browsing until the social distancing requirements are reduced as they are small in size e.g. a room in a community centre and have only one member of staff assigned to them.

Libraries continue to offer an array of online and digital services including over 40,000 eBooks, 30,000 eAudiobooks, 550 online courses, as well as newspapers and magazines. Libraries also providing book delivery services to older and vulnerable clients. Indeed my Department has provided funding of €400,000 so far this year for eBooks and eAudiobooks.