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Libraries update:

Following government guidelines face coverings must be worn at all times when visiting any of our libraries, unless you are exempt from doing so.

Frequently asked questions about our services during our phased re-opening.

Coronavirus and libraries FAQs

For the latest updates on government announcements and changes to council services in response to Coronavirus please see Essex County Council's Coronavirus updates page.


This page will continue to be updated as news on the services develop.


Are libraries open?

Yes, Essex libraries opened in a phased approach in line with Government guidelines, with sixteen sites opening from Monday 6 July.

The remaining libraries opened over the following weeks, so that by Tuesday 18 August all Essex libraries were welcoming visitors again.

What safety measures are in place?

In line with government guidance, the number of customers allowed in a library at any one time will be reduced to help people stay safe. Time spent in the library may also be limited. Where possible, there will be separate entrances and exits; and you may have to queue before entering the library.

Following government guidelines face coverings must be worn at all times when visiting any of our libraries, unless you are exempt from doing so.

If you are using the NHS Test and Trace app, please scan the QR barcode on display before entering the library. Alternatively, you will be asked to provide your name and contact number to support NHS Test and Trace - this information will only be used where necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please see the Test and Trace Privacy statement.

Please use the self-service machines to issue and return your items and to pay any charges. Items of stock will be quarantined for 72 hours on their return.

Regular cleaning measures will be in place and there will be hand sanitisers for customers’ use.

Please watch our video on what to expect.

What services are available?

To begin with, the service offered will be limited, but you will be able to return and borrow items, as well as have time to browse the shelves. At times when the library is busy, or we can only allow one customer into the library at a time, we may have to limit browsing time to 15 minutes. Other services are temporarily suspended and will be reviewed frequently so that they can be offered again as soon as it is safe to do so

From 1 August there will also be a limited number of public computers available (see Will the public computers be available? below).

Will libraries be open at their usual times?

From Monday 14 September most libraries returned to their normal opening hours. Please check opening hours for individual locations.

Will families be allowed to come in together?

Please visit the library alone if possible as there will be limited visitor capacity. However, we understand that some individuals will require assistance (e.g. a carer) or will have children with them. Therefore, adults can enter together where specific assistance for one of them is required. Adults with a small group of children in the same family group will also be able to enter together. Please remember that adults are responsible for supervising the children at all times and they should maintain social distancing guidelines.

Account / Services

My books are due for return soon, how can I renew?

Items can be renewed online, on the self-service machines in libraries or by phone 0345 603 7628.

How long can I borrow items for?

For any new items borrowed from 1 September the loan periods will revert to normal:

  • three weeks for books and audio books 
  • one week for DVDs and CDs

Due date reminder notifications resumed from 7 September.

Will I be fined for any overdue items?

Yes. If items are not returned or renewed by their due date they will incur overdue charges. Details of these are on our overdue charges and exemptions page.

Please note:

  • All items originally due between 1 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 were automatically renewed until 1 September 2020 so no overdue charges apply to these items.
  • All items that were due for return before 1 January 2020 will incur a charge for the period up to 1 January 2020.
  • Overdue charges apply to CDs and DVDs borrowed from 6 July 2020.

Will you be taking payments?

We will be accepting cash payment through the self-service machines only. We will not be taking cash payments at the Hello Desk or giving customers change. Online payments remain unavailable.

Can I reserve a book?

Yes, the reservation service restarted on 1 August. Items will be held awaiting collection for 10 days.

Reservation notifications also resumed from 1 August.

Can I join in the library?

Yes, however please join online if you can. 

Can I exchange my temporary online membership for a permanent library card?

Yes, you will be able to do this. However, if you are using Borrowbox for e-books and e-audio please be aware that Borrowbox will treat the new card number as a new account and your current loans and reservations will end. Please finish whatever you are reading or have reserved before exchanging your card.

If you wish to have your Borrowbox loan history transferred then please request this by emailing with your old temporary card number and your new permanent membership number.

Can I collect hearing aid batteries?

Yes, in some libraries - details of these are on the individual library location pages.

Can I recycle batteries / small electrical items / crisp packets ?

No, these services are temporarily suspended.

Can I collect recycling bags?

This will be possible in some locations, where it is safe to do so. Please see individual library locations for details.

Are newspapers and magazines available?

Not in the library, although they can be accessed on your own devices from home through PressReader and RBdigital online with your library card.

Is WiFi available?

Yes, but please note you may have limited time in the library and there are no study facilities available. You may find that you can get a WiFi signal from outside the building.

Are the public computers available?

From 1 August there will be a limited number of public computers available in most libraries. Please check individual library locations for details.  Sessions will last a maximum of 45 minutes to enable cleaning between use. Customers will be able to book online, by phone or in the library. No walk-in sessions will be available. Please see the Library computers and WiFi page for more details.

Printing will be available in most libraries from Wednesday 9 September. Please check individual library locations for details before booking.

Scanning facilities are temporarily suspended.

Can I print from the public computers?

Printing is available in most libraries. Please check individual library locations for details before booking.

Can I photocopy?

Some libraries are able to offer photocopying. Please check individual library locations for details.

Can I fax?

No, this service is temporarily suspended. 

Are customer toilets and changing facilities open?

No, these are not available.

Are there any events or activities running in libraries?

There are no events or activities running in libraries. However, our one-minute book reviews, children's online Rhymetimes, story times, craft videos and podcasts are available on our #LibrariesFromHome catalogue page.

Can I come into the library to study?

We're currently unable to offer study facilities due to the limited time that customers can spend in the library. 

Can I borrow stock from the Performing Arts Service?

Yes, this will be available from Monday 6 July and new reservations will be accepted.

What’s happening with the Home Library Service?

While libraries have been closed, staff have been making befriending calls with Home Library Service customers.

Visits will recommence from Monday 6 July in line with social distancing requirements.

Will the Mobile Library Service be running?

Yes, the service recommenced on Monday 6 July.

What’s happening with the Summer Reading Challenge this year?

As you may have heard, this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, Silly Squad, is taking place online. Visit the Silly Squad website to join the challenge.

What about registrations appointments?

Please see the Registrations website for more information.


How do I join online?

You can join the library online on our catalogue website.

Please verify your account by clicking the link in the email you receive to confirm your registration.

You can use the online library without having to collect a membership card from a library, see ‘what resources are available from home?’ below.

What is my PIN/password?

The default PIN is your date of birth in a DDMMYY format.

What resources are available from home?

With your library membership you can access reading resources, learning materials and reference resources online 24/7.

We have thousands of e-books, e-audiobooks, e-comics, e-magazines and e-newspapers available through Borrowbox, RBdigital and PressReader.

We’re currently buying more titles for our eLibrary to give you more choice. New customers joining online can now access these services quickly and without needing to collect a library card from a library.

What other resources are available from home?

We have created online rhymetimes, stories and craft videos, one-minute book reviews and podcasts. If you have missed these promoted on social media, visit the #LibrariesFromHome page for the full selection.

How do I use e-books, e-audiobooks, e-magazines, e-newspapers and e-comics?

Guidance can be found on our e-books and e-magazines, e-comics and e-newspapers pages.

Why is there a queue for the e-book / e-audiobook I want?

Due to licensing restrictions many titles are limited to one user per copy but we’re buying more titles to provide you with more choice. We’re also buying more titles that have unlimited access.

I’ve tried to use Borrowbox with an online membership number and it doesn’t work.

There may be an overnight delay between verifying your account on the email you receive when joining the library service and being able to access Borrowbox.


Page updated: 19 October 2020

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