READING Council is working to reopen its libraries and museums as soon as possible, with safety at the forefront of its plans.

Whilst tomorrow (July 4) has been set nationally as the earliest date libraries and museums can open where it is safe to do so, in the interest of protecting the public and staff, a decision has been taken to reopen Reading venues only when the council is fully satisfied all necessary safety measures are in place.

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Working in line with current national safety guidance, the council will look to manage a phased reopening of these services.

The plan is to open Central Library in the town centre first, towards the end of July, initially with a reduced service and opening hours.

The library will offer an order and collect service, with some limited access to computers and for visa appointments. Initially, there will be no access for the public to browse shelves, access WIFI or use study spaces and none of the library’s regular events or children’s activities will resume for the time being.

The future reopening of other branches will be kept under review.

Item due dates will again be extended and with the book-drop at Central Library available for use.

The service will also look to start its Home Library Service on a non-contact basis.

Reading Library’s popular e-service continues to be available.

The reopening of Reading Museum is similarly being carefully planned at present, with a date yet to be set.

Like Reading’s library service, the museum continues to offer residents an extensive online range of activities, resources and information via its website and on its social media channels.

Additionally, the Berkshire Record Office will shortly start offering a full remote enquiry service, including copies and research.

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s lead member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: "We are as eager as everyone to see our much-loved libraries and museum reopen – and we look forward to the day we can welcome people back to these wonderful community spaces.

"However, ultimately the bottom line is safety first.

"The safety of the public and our staff remains our top priority – we need to be absolutely confident every preventative measure against the virus has been carefully thought out and implemented, to prevent any local resurgence originating at these locations.

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"The good news remains that Central Library will reopen later this month and we hope it will not be too much longer before the museum can follow.

"We must, however, emphasise that whilst Central Library service will reopen soon, it will not represent a return to normality for some time to come, with the service operating at a reduced level to accommodate safety measures.

"Although our libraries and museum have temporarily closed their doors, I cannot recommend too often, the fabulous amount of offerings each venue has online.

"Both teams are working hard behind the scenes to continue to bring you innovative material relevant to current events, such as the fabulous virtual Windrush exhibition with the museum.

"The library is constantly curating and recommending new material and research pertinent to current issues. Both the library and museum have very lively social media channels that are very worthy of following."