Kent County Council Library Service South-East England


hroughout lockdown, Kent boosted digital services across its 99

libraries and developed a staff picks’ initiative which was so successful it will remain a core offering. James Pearson, head of

libraries, registration and archive at Kent Count Council, says: “Kent had to adapt quickly in the early days of the pandemic to a digitally focused service. As such we reprioritised resources to develop our e-services, this meant we purchased increased numbers of e-books in particular. We also simplified the online joining approach.”

Like many other libraries, users flocked to online. “The impact on our digital use in Kent was massive,” Pearson says. “In 2020–2021 the service increased its usage exponentially: issues totalled 1,671,000, a 93% increase on 2019-2020 (across e-books and audio as well as online magazines and newspapers).” As well as starting a click and collect service for users, Kent also developed a staff picks alternative. “Customers could request specific books or for staff to select books on their behalf based on the customers’ reading preferences,” Pearson says. “It was a vital way of keeping a

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form of physical book offer even through lockdowns and proved very successful. As a result we are still keeping the staff picks side of the service going at the present time as people are still nervous.” Almost all of the libraries are now open though transition has taken considerable effort. “There has been a lot of work to get them ready and some elements of the new normal way of life are staying with us, hand sanitiser, a bit more general flow around the spaces and layouts, encouraging people to be mindful of other people and the space they need,” Pearson says.

There has been a lot of work to get them ready and some elements of the new normal way of life are staying with us James Pearson, head of libraries

“The pandemic is still with us and we need to keep mindful of that. We are delighted however to see customers returning and using us once again and this summer the highlight has been the return of the Summer Reading Challenge. Around 10,000 children are taking part, either by coming into the library or joining digitally, with the theme of wild world heroes and tapping into interest in animals, the environment and protecting the planet.”


The British Library London


he British Library fulfilled a unique role during the pandemic in using its archive

to ensure both present and future researchers could understand the crisis. The collecting responsibilities

included newspapers, oral histories, radio broadcasts, websites, scientific publications and other published works. Richard Price, head of


20 3rd September 2021

contemporary British collections at the library, said: “As one of the United Kingdom’s key memory institutions, we launched a Covid-19 archiving programme to secure a comprehensive record of these times to aid the society’s understanding—now and in years to come. The Covid-19 collecting project covers an extraordinarily diverse range of content including newspapers, oral histories, radio broadcasts from around 70 stations, broadcasts from 17 television

channels, podcasts, 6,500 websites, scientific publications and more. In many ways, it will have the longest legacy of any of the activities we undertook during the pandemic, and it was one of our earliest priorities.” Additionally, the library worked

on a project with the University of Manchester, the NHS Voices of Covid-19, which involved a collection of 2,000 personal testimonies from NHS workers, patients, policymakers and members of the public to form a powerful new national collection. As well as collecting, it built on its

engagement and pivoted its public programme online, which included the launch of its Discovering Children’s Books website and an interactive miniature books project for children. During school closures the library produced more than 50,000 special printed educational activity packs which were distributed via schools, public libraries, community partners and food banks. It also supported other libraries

around the UK through the Living Knowledge Network, a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries which saw 147 library services access its webinars.

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