On 16th March the first emails started to arrive from our library colleagues around the region telling us that due to the spread of Coronavirus cases in the UK their services would be closed until further notice. That was just three weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime. At that point the UK had 41 reported Covid-19 deaths, as we write this on 7th April; we have now lost 6,159 NHS patients to this virus.

Library closed do not enter
As more and more colleagues moved to remote working, we fully expected to be sent home too, especially when on Friday 23rd March the government issued it’s ‘stay at home’ guidance and announced the closure of pubs, restaurants and libraries. But here at Bolton events took a different course.

As more and more staff reported sick or had to self-isolate, library staff like many others in ‘admin’ roles were tasked with carrying out new, unexpected duties to support front line colleagues. Because the library computer, meeting and quiet rooms were commandeered for urgent clinical skills training (which now has to take place on a one to one basis) it was decided to keep the library open as much as practical, with library staff combining office and home working where feasible.

We are open
Initially we saw a slowdown in the number of visitors coming to borrow text books, but we had an increase in those using our fiction book swap prior to possible self-isolation. Enquiries by email remain steady with many requests for support coming from clinical staff using self-isolation to work on CPD or publication projects. Document supply and literature search requests are only slightly down on previous levels. It’s particularly rewarding to be able to support clinical colleagues who are being redeployed such as one ophthalmic nurse who was moving into an ICU nursing role and wanted material on critical care nursing.

As well as our ‘library’ duties we have all been given additional work to do outside of our normal roles. Library Manager Paula Elliott spends a large part of her day helping to fit test staff for PPE and has also been trained in the moving and handling of patients to cover light portering duties. Library assistant Kelly Doolan is providing admin support to the Trust COVID Management team, again around the PPE fit-test programme. Clinical Librarian Sandra Johnson has been assisting the clinical educators as they create a record of those up-skilled ready for redeployment.

So actually, Bolton library Service whilst in no way flaunting the government advice is definitely still open and library staff continue to adapt and remain as flexible as possible to support our colleagues here and around the region.

Paula Elliott, Sandra Johnson and Kelly Doolan
Royal Bolton Hospital Library Service. library@boltonft.nhs.uk