A collection service introduced to help people in County Durham access library books is to be extended.

Durham County Council introduced its ‘pick and collect’ service earlier this month to enable people to borrow books for the first time since lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Although anyone can use the service regardless of where in the county they live or which library they normally visit, collection points were initially located at only nine libraries – Barnard Castle; Chester-le-Street; Consett; Crook; Newton Aycliffe; Peterlee; Seaham; Woodhouse Close, in Bishop Auckland; and Belmont, in Durham.

However, from Monday, 3rd August, this has been extended to include Bishop Auckland Town Hall; Easington; Sedgefield; Shildon; Spennymoor; Stanley; Thornley; Wolsingham; and Clayport and Newton Hall, in Durham.

The pick and collect service enables members of the public to order up to three books online or over the phone. They are then contacted by the library service, using their registered number, to arrange a collection day when they will be able to pick up their chosen titles from a participating library.

The libraries chosen for the first two phases of the scheme have been selected because they are busy libraries, which also offer sufficient space to provide the essential elements of the pick and collect service. This includes space for visitors to queue safely prior to entry and for a quarantine area to be created for returned books.

The chosen sites also offer a good geographical spread of locations around the county.

None of the libraries will be open for browsing. All other library services, including access to public computers, will remain suspended for the time being although the council is currently looking at how these services can be reinstated over the coming weeks.

Libraries across the country were forced to close in March in response to Government guidance on preventing the spread of coronavirus. Since then, library users in County Durham have been able to access online services, with an extended digital offer including more eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobook titles and free access to research tool Ancestry.

These services will continue alongside a temporary Doorstep Book Delivery service, which was introduced during the lockdown period to provide books for isolated and vulnerable Books on Wheels library users.

During the summer, younger readers are being encouraged to take part in the national Summer Reading Challenge, which is has this year gone online. The Silly Squad-themed event offers youngsters the chance to play games, earn badges and receive rewards as they discover new a host of new books. More information is available at https://api.readingagency.org.uk. Participating pick and collect sites will also be offering giveaway prizes.

Pick and collect is available via Library Online service or by calling one of the participating libraries.

Library collections and telephone assistance times may differ at each library and will not be in line with their former opening hours.

Anyone can become a member of the library service by visiting Library Online or calling one of the participating libraries.

For more information, including contact details for participating libraries, visit www.durham.gov.uk/pickandcollect, or follow the library service’s Facebook or Twitter accounts at https://twitter.com/DurhamLibraries and https://www.facebook.com/CountyDurhamLibraries/