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B&NES Council Corporate Strategy 2020 to 2024

Virtual library

Lockdown and the introduction of social distancing as a result of COVID-19 has impacted access to our public libraries. As a result, we had to work out how best to engage with our customers. The answer was to set up a virtual library using our social media channels.

It took just three days to establish the new library offering, using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to offer services and share information. Content is regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure it remains fresh and interesting for customers.

A daily theme is assigned for children and adults, ranging from digital support to homeschooling ideas, and arts and crafts activities. The themes reflect the Universal Offers from Libraries Connected:

  • Reading
  • Information & digital
  • Culture & creativity
  • Health & wellbeing
  • The Children’s Promise

Feedback has been extremely positive, with Baby Bounce and Rhyme videos becoming a firm favourite. You can view Baby Bounce and Rhyme videos on our YouTube channel. There has been a continual rise in follower figures across all our platforms.

Social media trends
Quarter Total reach on social media Follower rise across social media
Q1 April - June 2020 249,644 56.02%
Q2 July - September 2020 184,409 30.78%
Q3 October - December 2020 270,404 37.11%
Q4 January - March 2021 265,880 16.82%

Following the success of the Virtual Library, we also launched a Blog which is a digital archive of the Virtual Library and can be accessed via the web, making our content more accessible to those who do not use social media.

We have also made it easier for new users to join online. Any B&NES resident can now complete the online registration on the LibrariesWest website, and use their membership number to sign into any of the digital services.

To meet increased demand we invested £10,000 in new eAudio items, with a wide range of new titles added to the eBook and eAudio collections shared with our LibrariesWest neighbours. We also introduced an online newspaper service in May 2020, from which our members download an average of 2,500 papers a month.

There have been 135,000 digital issues and downloads across our eLibrary collections to the end of January. We estimate that by the end of the financial year this figure will have increased to 160,000.

We developed an online programme of events which proved very popular with our followers. In December we reached a total of 96051 people through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Home Library Service was a big source of concern at the start of lockdown, as it provides a vital service for many of the readers, offering social contact as well as reading materials. Many of the readers and the volunteers are in the most vulnerable groups, so the service was immediately halted at the start of the first lockdown. To ensure continued provision of reading material we introduced a Book Drop service. Every 6 weeks, volunteers delivered bags of up to 6 books to around fifty readers’ homes, maintaining social distancing regulations.

Earlier this year we received funding from a successful bid to the Reading Agency and Arts Council to deliver a new ‘Reading Friends’ programme. The UK wide social reading and befriending programme is designed to help those who feel vulnerable, isolated, or lonely. We have started pairing up befrienders with our first participants, and they will chat over the phone and meet virtually. We have also established our first Reading Friends book chat group, who held fortnightly virtual meetings.