A year like no other for Buckingham Library staff

Library personnel have been redeployed into a wide variety of community roles to help during the pandemic

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 5:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 5:10 pm
Busy behind the scenes at Buckingham Library, Pam Sirett

As Buckingham Library gets ready to reopen on Tuesday, April 13, its staff are looking back on a year like no other.

Even though the blinds have been down and the doors firmly shut, workers have not been idle - they've been busy helping in the community, either from their laptops at home or behind the scenes in the library itself.

As all the libraries closed in March 2020, and many people in Buckinghamshire were told to self-isolate due to being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, library staff were redeployed from being the friendly face behind the counter to being a friendly voice on the telephone.

Buckingham Library

Buckingham Library staff made 1,505 calls, dealing with a huge variety of problems, from arranging government food parcels to supermarket slots and prescription deliveries. Many residents had serious health, financial and personal issues that they were able to help with or signpost to relevant groups and organisations. Buckinghamshire Council also set up a contact centre for the more complex questions.

Staff also delivered food parcels and picked up prescriptions for local residents.

With the home library service temporarily suspended, staff also undertook deliveries of books to people who are housebound, which can be a lifeline.

As the lockdown eased in July, the library was able to reopen in a safe way to customers and offer a request and collect service, which proved popular.

But things began to get tricky again as Buckinghamshire moved into Tier 4 just before Christmas, and the phone calls continued.

With the vaccine finally on the horizon in early spring, some of the library staff were redeployed to the vaccination allocation bureau and tasked with the mobilisation of carers in Buckinghamshire to receive their vaccine as soon as it became available.

Customer service officer Sue Duhig said: "This was a large and varied cohort of people and seemed a long way from our usual library work but proved an interesting and rewarding task."

Other members of staff found themselves processing the business grants available from Buckinghamshire Council for struggling businesses around the county.

And as Buckingham Library gets ready to reopen staff are still in telephone contact with some residents, as befrienders,

The library is still hosting the coronavirus rapid flow test centre, but this is in a separate room and will not affect the main area.

Sue Duhig said: "We want to reassure customers that we are operating in a safe environment and looking forward to welcoming you back."

Buckingham Library will be open Tuesdays 10am to 6pm, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10am to 5pm, Saturdays 10am to 1pm, closed Sundays and Mondays.