HAMPSHIRE libraries have expanded their digital stock as the county council announced it would temporarily close its branches amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The county council said it had added extra resources to its online offering to help those who are self-isolating.
Branches will shut tomorrow (Saturday) until further notice and all events have been cancelled for the next 12 weeks.
In the New Forest there are libraries in New Milton, Lymington, Milford, Lyndhurst, Hythe, Blackfield, Ringwood and Fordingbridge.
Before the decision, the council had asked anyone suffering the main symptoms of Covid-19, which are a persistent cough and fever, not to attend. People should stay at home for seven days, or 14 days if they are the first person in their home showing symptoms.
HCC’s cabinet member for recreation and heritage, Cllr Seán Woodward, said: “Given the scale and reach of the coronavirus pandemic, we have decided to close all county council-run libraries from 21 March 2020 until further notice.
“This is to help stop any possible spread of the disease in our communities and to free up staff to support other critical services where needed.
“We haven’t taken this decision lightly as we know many people enjoy visiting their local library but the welfare and safety of our visitors and staff is paramount.
“Many people will be staying at home at this time, so we are encouraging customers to take advantage of the great variety of free recreation and learning resources available such as e-newspapers and e-magazines.
“We are also releasing more titles on Borrowbox – the free app which has hundreds of audiobooks and e-books for children and adults. In addition, our Hampshire Libraries Facebook site has lots to explore, including Online Rhymetime and a Digital Reading Group.”
He added: “However, we are mindful that not all of our customers have on-line access, and we are looking at ways to ensure that those residents can remain in contact with the Service. We will provide more details about these arrangements, as soon as possible.
“In the meantime, we are grateful for the support of our customers and we will do our very best to provide this valued service during this difficult period.”
Fees for items which are overdue will be frozen over the next three months, HCC said.
As reported in the A&T, HCC has been consulting on £1.76m funding cuts to libraries which could threaten the future of the Milford, Lyndhurst and Blackfield branches.
To find out more go to www.hants.gov.uk/library.