Manchester Central Library was the most visited public library in the country in 2019/20, with 2,022,641 visits recorded.
Now, the library has announced it will be opening its doors again later this week, with new distancing and safety measures in place.
It will reopen on Thursday 20th August – the same day that Manchester Art Gallery admits visitors again for the first time since March – providing a double boost to the city centre’s cultural recovery.
All loans which were in place during the period when libraries were closed have been automatically renewed until Tuesday 22nd September, meaning that no fines have accrued for borrowers who were unable to return their items.
As well as browsing, borrowing and returning books, visitors will be able to access computers, WiFi, printing, scanning and photocopying services, with safeguards and distancing conditions in place.
A maximum of 250 visitors will be allowed into Central Library at any time.
Hand sanitiser stations will be available on each of the library’s four floors and, in line with government guidance, face coverings should be worn at all times wherever possible.
Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult, while all visitors will be expected to complete a contact details form, to help the NHS Test and Trace programme.
Opening hours will initially be 10am – 4pm from Monday – Thursday and on Saturdays. The library will remain closed on Fridays and in the evenings until further notice, to allow regular deep cleans to take place, on top of an enhanced daily cleansing regime.
The Wolfson Reading Room will be open for those wishing to study, but to ensure social distancing is maintained, capacity within the room will be restricted to a maximum of 60 people.
The Business & Intellectual Property Centre, Henry Watson Music Library, Visitor Information Centre and café will all be open, with access to the library’s archives department also available by appointment.
The council’s Books to Go service, which provides a free home delivery service for Manchester residents with limited mobility, a visual impairment or who have difficulty leaving home, has also recommenced, with users able to borrow up to 15 items every four weeks.
In line with advice from Public Health England, hard copies of newspapers, magazines and leaflets will not be made available, but newspapers and magazines can be accessed electronically, as part of Manchester City Council’s digital library offer.
Nine of Manchester’s libraries reopened in July, including City Library, on the basement level of the Central Library / Town Hall Extension complex.
The Avenue, Chorlton, Didsbury, Gorton, Newton Heath, Longsight, Withington and Wythenshawe Forum libraries also reopened, providing communities across the city with free access to books and computers.
Since reopening, these libraries have recorded around 16,100 visits, with 20,400 items issued to borrowers, answered 5,700 public enquiries, and logged more than 3,500 computer sessions.
Plans are currently being made to reopen 13 more libraries – those run by Manchester City Council which are located in shared buildings with other amenities, plus the city’s six community partnership libraries.
“It will be a huge pleasure to begin the careful process of welcoming Mancunians back to Central Library, which is one of the UK’s most important and best-loved cultural venues,” said Councillor Luthfur Rahman.
“Our libraries provide vital services to the community, not just through offering access to reliable information and our fantastic collections of books and materials, but also by giving residents free access to the internet and digital technology when they need it.
“Just as in supermarkets and other public places, visitors can expect to see some temporary changes to the way the library is run and we will need to limit the amount of people allowed inside at any time for the foreseeable future.
“We will respond to the government’s guidance as it is updated, to ensure that a safe environment for visitors to Central Library is maintained.”