‘We missed the public’: Cork City Library prepares for partial reopening

Ten branches introduce Covid-19 protections before resuming return-and-collect service

Librarians Yvonne Moloney, Helen McGonagle and Patricia Looney preparing for reopening of Cork City Library Central Branch on Grand Parade on Monday. Photograph: Barry Roche

As librarians around the country brace themselves for a resumption of borrowing when libraries reopen on Monday, staff in Cork prepare to once again provide services to 35,000 members.

Leading from the front are senior executive librarian Patricia Looney and her colleagues, Yvonne Moloney and Helen McGonagle who are readying the Central Branch on the Grand Parade for the reopening.

“We’re going to operate a return-and-collect service where people will ring or email in what books they want to borrow – we will take the calls in the morning and then spend the afternoon getting them together,” says Ms Looney.

“It’s going to be labour intensive to get the books together for people so we will be telling them that they can come in to collect the books on the afternoon of the day after they phone in their requests.”


Conscious of the need to curb any risk of books – or people – spreading Covid-19, returned books will be left quarantine in a return box for 72 hours just in case the borrower may have had the disease.

Staff will be protected by Perspex screens on the tables set up in the foyer of the Central Library building along with plentiful supplies of hand sanitiser.

While the main body of the library will remain closed until the end of the month, the return-and-collect service will hopefully help meet the needs of borrowers who have remained loyal to the service during the lockdown.

Ms Moloney, executive librarian for community and inclusion, says Cork City Library was the first in the country to operate a home-delivery service and they saw that increase during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We had some 45 people on our housebound service before the lockdown but another 78 joined up during the lockdown so our driver, John O’Sullivan, was delivering books to those people throughout the lockdown,” she said.

"We would have been delivering as far out as Ballincollig and Rochestown and Glanmire, to elderly or vulnerable people, who are cocooning, and some of them are going to stay with the service even when we reopen fully."

“We missed the public,” says Ms Moloney, “a lot of them are like old friends – I’ve been on the phone to a lot of them and they appreciated the housebound service – one woman told us she saved her life because she lives in books.”