LIBRARIES in the New Forest are shutting to the public over the festive period after the government placed the district into Tier 3 from Boxing Day – with no promises they will reopen afterwards.
The closure will last until at least the new year when county council chiefs have promised to review the situation in the district.
Branches are guaranteed to remain shut elsewhere in Hampshire, however, while the rest of the county remains under the highest Tier 4 restrictions after Christmas Day.
It follows yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) announcement by health secretary Matt Hancock that the New Forest is going into Tier 3 from Boxing Day, with the rest of Hampshire in Tier 4.
Under government guidelines Hampshire County Council could have kept Tier 3 libraries open, but civic chiefs said they had taken the “proactive decision” for safety reasons.
In the meantime the service will retain most of its offerings online, including children’s Rhymetime and storytime and the reserving and renewing of book loans.
Cllr Edward Heron, HCC cabinet member for recreation, heritage, countryside and rural affairs, said: “For our libraries in the New Forest, while we are confident that our premises remain Covid-secure, we feel that it is in the best interests of staff and customers alike to restrict access to our buildings in Tier 3 areas for the time being.
“We are confident that, with the range of services still available, New Forest residents can continue to enjoy access to books and resources in other ways.
“We will closely monitor the situation and review our decision for libraries in Tier 3 after the festive period.”
For Tier 3 areas the government suggested decisions on libraries be made “in light of local circumstances”, he said. “We have therefore taken the proactive decision to also suspend browsing in libraries within the New Forest for the festive period.”
He added: “Customers will still be able to book access to public computers and collect reservations and Ready Reads selections in all public libraries in the county.”