The COVID-19 restrictions of recent weeks and months have seen over 20,000 new members sign up to join NSW libraries with millions estimated to have turned to libraries to get them through the lockdown crisis.
State Librarian John Vallance said library staff had spent the past Library and Information Week (25-31 May) preparing to welcome back readers and meet the thousands of new members who connected with their State or public library for the first time while in isolation.
“What has become abundantly clear over these past eight weeks is just how loved and valued libraries are,” Dr Vallance said.
“And this time apart has been tough on all of us.”
He said NSW’s libraries had risen to the challenge of engaging and stimulating their communities online through the isolation period with free virtual storytime sessions, online book clubs, talks, podcasts, digital puzzles and activities as well as a wealth of digital content.
“Since the 23 March shutdown, the State Library has enjoyed 703,611 website visits (20 per cent increase) and 1,500 ebooks have been downloaded (200 per cent increase),” Dr Vallance said.
He said NSW public libraries had collectively processed over 800,000 eloans, a 300 per cent increase on the same period last year, and enjoyed over a million website visits.
He said the State Library’s two main reading rooms had now reopened for study and computer use and a reduced number of readers would be allowed in either the State Library’s Bashir Reading Room or the Mitchell Library Reading Room at any one time to maintain safe physical distancing.