East Riding Libraries and Customer Services are delighted to have reopened as lockdown restrictions have eased.
Since re-opening on Monday, 6 July, the teams have dealt with thousands of queries and book reservations, and just as many books returned. However, during the lockdown, the teams focused on the other main purpose of Libraries and Customer Services – the local community.
Tracey Swales, the supervisor at Hessle Library and Customer Services, explained:
“At the start of lockdown, times ahead looked very bleak and depressing, knowing we were unable to see family, but also colleagues too, for possibly months. Then we started to get organised and began to get used to the new working conditions. Our regular, free library groups are essential in combatting isolation and loneliness for many of our elderly and vulnerable customers, also for parents/carers with children, so we began by phoning any group members who we knew may be struggling, just to check up on them.
“Our teams were then asked to work on a project with SMILE foundation and the NHS to get in touch with vulnerable residents across the East Riding (not just library customers) and things really picked up in terms of mood and pace! The pleasure both us and the people we were ringing were getting was indescribable. The gratitude and kind words both ways certainly worked as a salve to all.
I was humbled by people’s stories and feelings of sorrow, loneliness and worry, but also enlightened by the pleasure of their knowing that we were able to reach out and support them.
“I heard stories of elderly friends meeting in their communal garden for a gin each day, socially distanced of course! I heard many memories of VE Day, including one 90 year old vividly recalling holding her granddad’s hand to go into Beverley and see the lights in shops for the first time, and another whose family didn’t celebrate as their son was still fighting.
“Another 89 year old had learned the joys of WhatsApp when a young neighbour visited every household in the cul-de-sac to set up a help group so that each time one went to a certain shop they would bring back provisions for all who requested it. Such lovely, poignant and heart-warming stories of community spirit. There were a few tears shed and I certainly had to let go after hanging up a few times, sometimes with tears of joy and sometimes having listened to heartbreak and sadness.
“I can honestly say that along with delivering Reminiscence Sessions for elderly customers in the Library, this new way of working has been one of the best and rewarding experiences of my working life! I will treasure these conversations for years to come.
“We then started to look towards the future and the possibility of re-opening. There was a flurry of activity with lots of planning, spreadsheets, ‘teams’ meetings, and PPE ordering. When we reopened again on 6 July, it was a joy to be back in the real world. We have had many customers coming to the door so happy to see us back and to know we are all OK. They’ve told us how much they have missed our smiling faces and can’t wait to actually come back into the library when they can browse books themselves. We’re unable to offer browsing at the moment, but as we know the customers so well we are able to pick out a few books for the ones who can’t manage online and this has helped them enormously.”
Tracey is one of many Library and Customer Services staff who all worked tirelessly continuing to support the community during the lockdown and made over 28,000 outgoing phonecalls to residents, checking in and answering questions/arranging food deliveries, and listening to concerns and often going above and beyond to help residents.
Ann, from Beverley Customer Service Centre, took a phone call from a customer who desperately needed hearing aid batteries during the lockdown. Ann not only arranged new batteries for the customer but also delivered them the same day.
Alice, a resident from Welton, called with the following feedback: “Just wanted to call back the council and thank you for what they are doing for us, I have just received my husband’s medication, we were chasing it up this morning as it was not delivered yesterday. I spoke to both Lynne and Jackie and they couldn’t have been more helpful, it has just been delivered at 3.00pm.
“We are so grateful for everything everyone is doing for us as we stay home. Jackie even offered to go to the chemist to collect the medication for us, but unfortunately could not as it is a controlled drug, but we really appreciated her offering. We want to thank the council for this service, at times things have been fraught, but with your help, we are managing well.”
John Skidmore, director of adults, health, and customer services, said: “I am immensely proud of our team and their amazing efforts during this lockdown period. To some extent, their efforts have been a natural extension of what they do all the time anyway, but I know that in recent weeks, our team have gone way above and beyond what is expected, and they have been greatly appreciated.”
East Riding Libraries continue to offer an Order and Collect service, where customers can reserve books online and then collect from a library of their choice once available.
Customers are welcome to phone their library if they would like recommendations for both adults and children – contact details can be found at: https://www.eastridinglibraries.co.uk/find-a-library/
In addition to this, there is a huge selection of free eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines also available, free to download for Library Customers.
For all Customer Service queries, visit www.eastriding.gov.uk/council/contact-the-council/customer-services/