A BOOK collection service is being introduced at County Durham libraries this week.

Since libraries shut in March, people have been able to access Durham County Council's online library services.

From today, the council's pick and collect service will enable people to borrow books for the first time since lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Members of the public can order up to three titles online or over the phone. They will then be contacted by the library service, using their registered number, to arrange a collection slot when they will be able to pick up their chosen books from a participating library.

The service will initially be available at libraries in Barnard Castle, Chester-le- Street, Consett, Crook, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee and Seaham as well as Belmont, in Durham, and Woodhouse Close, in Bishop Auckland. Anyone can use it, regardless of where in the county they live or which library they normally visit.

The Northern Echo: Durham County Council launches a Pick and Collect library service from Monday, July 6Durham County Council launches a Pick and Collect library service from Monday, July 6

The council said those libraries were chosen as 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. This also allows scope for the service to be adapted before it is rolled out to some other sites.

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

Libraries will not be open for browsing and all other library services, including access to public computers, will remain suspended for the time being.

Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “Our eBooks and aMagazines have been available online throughout the pandemic and have proved incredibly popular. However, we know how much library users have missed our book borrowing services over the past few months.

The Northern Echo: Durham County Council launches a Pick and Collect library service from Monday, July 6Durham County Council launches a Pick and Collect library service from Monday, July 6

“Our pick and collect service will allow them access to books while we work towards bringing our library buildings back in to use when it is safe to do so. While this is an appointment-only service, and people will not be able to browse inside the library, it’s a step towards a new normality.

“We know demand will be high initially, so I would urge people to be patient when contacting the library. I would also encourage those using the service to abide by social distancing rules for the welfare of both staff and visitors when they come to collect books or drop them off.”

The Doorstep Book Delivery service, introduced to provide books for isolated and vulnerable Books on Wheels library users during lockdown, continues and there is an extended digital offer.

An extended digital offer including more eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobook titles and free access to research tool Ancestry, has proved popular with library users over the past couple of months, and will remain available alongside other online resources and digital storytelling.

More than 7,000 people have visited the Libraries Online web page since the start of April, while more than 3,000 people have viewed online storytelling sessions during the same period.

The council is planning to roll out the pick and collect to more sites in the coming weeks and it is also hoping to provide access to public computer facilities at a small number of sites in the near future.

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

Library collection slots 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 details visit durham.gov.uk/pickandcollect or follow the library service’s Facebook or Twitter accounts.