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Libraries update:

Following new government guidelines - from Saturday 8 August 2020 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 our Coronavirus updates page.


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


When will libraries re-open?

Like many other council services, Essex County Council is now preparing a phased approach to re-open libraries in line with Government guidelines.

From Monday 6 July 2020, sixteen sites will re-open; Basildon, Billericay, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Dunmow, Epping, Harlow, Harwich, Maldon, Rayleigh, Rochford, South Benfleet and Witham. The initial sixteen sites re-opening were selected as they also provide Registration Services, and therefore allow this important service to be more easily delivered too.

An additional 44 libraries re-opened during the week commencing 13 July.

From 20 July a further 8 libraries opened (Fryerns, Kelvedon, Mark Hall, Silver End, Southminster, Thaxted, Vange, Wickham Bishops).

Stock Library opened from Saturday 25 July, Stanway Library from 1 August, and Great Wakering and West Clacton libraries in the week commencing 3 August. Holland Library will open from 10 August.

When will the remaining library re-open?

Details for Debden are to be confirmed.

Why is it taking so long to re-open every library?

Libraries are open access public areas and the safety of customers and staff is paramount. It takes some time to create safe environments for everyone.

What safety measures will be 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 will also be limited. Where possible, there will be separate entrances and exits; and you may have to queue before entering the library.

Following new government guidelines - from Saturday 8 August 2020 face coverings must be worn at all times when visiting any of our libraries, unless you are exempt from doing so.

You will be asked for 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 will be available in the re-opened libraries?

To begin with, the service offered will be limited, but you will be able to return and borrow items, as well as have some limited time to browse the shelves. You may stay for up 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?

Please check opening hours for individual locations.

Libraries that are usually open after 5pm, will temporarily close at 5pm. This will allow the staffing to be used at other times, maximising the number of libraries that can open, instead of longer opening hours at fewer libraries.

It may be necessary to alter opening hours at short notice due to staff availability – alerts will be placed on our website and social media where possible.

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?

All items originally due between 1 January and 31 July will be automatically renewed until 1 September, so you don’t need to renew. Please bear with us whilst these changes take effect.

Other 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?

From 6 July, there will be an extended loan period of 12 weeks for books. From 1 September loan periods will revert back to 3 weeks for books.

From 6 July there will be an extended loan period of 3 weeks for items such as DVDs and CDs. These will continue until 1 September where the loan period will return to 1 week.

Will I be fined for any overdue items?

All items originally due between 1 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 will be automatically renewed until 1 September 2020, so there will be no overdue charges on these items.

Overdue charges will apply for CDs and DVDs that are issued from 6 July.

Please note that items that were due for return before 1 January 2020 will incur a charge for the period up to 1 January 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.

Can I return books via a book drop/letterbox?

Some re-opened libraries will have book drops available outside during opening hours – details of these are on the individual library location pages.

Please note that due to quarantining items of stock for 72 hours they will not be removed from your account immediately.

Will I be able to reserve a book?

Yes, the reservation service restarted on 1 August. The time items remain available for collection has been extended to 21 days.

Reservation notifications also resumed from 1 August.

Overdue, due date and renewal notifications remain temporarily suspended.

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.

Will I be able to collect hearing aid batteries?

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

Will I be able to recycle batteries / small electrical items / crisp packets ?

No, these services are temporarily suspended.

Will I be able to collect recycling bags?

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

Will newspapers and magazines be 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.

Will WiFi be available?

Yes, but please note you will 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.

Will the public computers be 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 and scanning facilities are temporarily suspended.

Will I be able to print/fax/photocopy?

No, these services are temporarily suspended. 

Will customer toilets and changing facilities be open?

No, these will not be 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. 

Will I be able to 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 recommences on Monday 6 July.

Due to staff availability there may be some disruption to the normal timetable. Service alerts will be posted on our mobile library service pages.

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: 5 August 2020

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