Libraries are a fantastic resource in any local area, providing not only books but also music, films, newspapers, computer access and some business services. Sadly, library funding is being reduced in boroughs across the country – Surrey is fortunate that its libraries remain open and are run by experienced staff.
Now that the UK is in its second lockdown, Surrey libraries have developed their own click-and-collect service so that people can continue to borrow books. As well as being able to reserve a specific book and collect it from the doorway of your local library, there is an alternative to browsing too: Ready Reads, where a member of library staff creates a unique collection of books for you, based on your favourite authors and genres.
My daughters and I decided to give Ready Reads a go. The three of us have all got into reading ruts recently, binge reading Harry Potter, Jacqueline Wilson and Dodie Smith to the exclusion of all else. Ready Reads would provide us with something different. Unlike asking for recommendations on social media or receiving books as gifts, Ready Reads books come with no pressure and no one will be offended if we don’t like them. I always feel that makes books easier to enjoy, don’t you?
The process was very quick and easy. I went to the Ready Reads section of the Surrey libraries website, and gave my name and library card number. Then I entered how many books for adults I wanted to borrow, and ticked which genres I enjoyed. There was a box where I could list my favourite authors and say what I was interested in reading – I wanted to discover more twenty-first century authors, so I put that down. It was similar for borrowing children’s books, and I could ask for age-appropriate books and explain the need to branch out from what my daughters usually read. I only had to fill in one form for all three of us, which I found helpful, especially as my daughters will end up reading each other’s books. I had to nominate the library I would collect from, and there’s an option for having your books collected by someone else if you’re self-isolating.
Forty-eight hours later, I received an email saying the books were ready to collect from Woking library. All excited, my younger daughter and I put on our coats and marched up to the biblio. As per lockdown, our way was barred by a substantial table and Perspex screen, but the library staff member was there to present us with our paper bag of books. All the books had already been allocated to my library card, so there was no need for me to enter the library – COVID-secure book lending at its best!
Our excitement was justified. There were six books in our bag, five of which were completely new to us. The sixth was from a series we already know, but a title we haven’t yet read. My older daughter has already made a start; my younger daughter and I are hurrying through our current books, so we can too!
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone, and in very different ways. Flexible businesses and organisations have fared best, and it’s wonderful that Surrey libraries can not only provide access to books, but offer a service that helps readers discover new authors and expand our ranges. Expert library staff with good knowledge of their stock are key to the success of Ready Reads, and readers value their support in keeping libraries active in spite of lockdown.
Here’s what other library users had to say about Ready Reads:
- “Excellent – like getting an exciting gift and exploring.”
- “It was a delight to use the service. What a treat for a child to receive a brown paper package with their name on, containing a surprise picked out just for them!”
- “The books chosen for me encouraged me to try new authors and they matched my taste well. There was an element of excitement as I went to collect them.”
- If surprise, delight and excitement aren’t words you’ve associated with libraries before, it might be time to start. Sign up for Ready Reads – support your library and expand your horizons.
- Books: Pixabay