With restrictions easing across Canberra, Libraries ACT will reopen three libraries from Wednesday, with others to follow from November 1.
Some Access Canberra service centres are also expected to open from Monday, October 18.
The government is juggling opening its bricks-and-mortar services against challenges including staff who are parents trying to coordinate a return to workplaces before students are due to return to school a week or fortnight later.
Libraries have been closed for nearly 10 weeks, but from Wednesday, Belconnen, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong branches will open on Wednesday, initially on reduced hours.
Physical distancing measures will be maintained and branches will be capped at no more than 25 people. Visits will be limited to 30 minutes, masks will be required to be worn and members will need to use the Check In CBR App on arrival.
Libraries ACT acting executive branch manager Dani Wickman acknowledged Canberrans had been waiting a long time for libraries to reopen.
"We know Canberrans love their local libraries and have been waiting for branches to reopen, so we thank them for their patience," she said.
"More branches will open their doors from November 1, 2021 as we work to ensure staff and members can visit branches as safely as possible.
"Members wishing to use a computer can do so without making a booking, subject to computer availability. However, there will be restrictions in place for all users of the library when visiting."
Chief Minister Andrew Barr's office was asked if some staff had been reluctant to return to face-to-face work before their children returned to school, and if unions had become involved.
An ACT spokesperson responded: "Preparation for reopening involves taking into account a range of factors including staff who have been redeployed to help ACT Health, staff with home-schooling responsibilities, a library being used as a pop-up vaccination clinic, and the need to put in place a range of measures to ensure we can open in a COVID-safe way.
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"We will look to progressively reopen branches as restrictions further ease and more staff become available.
"Staff consultation and union engagement around COVID safety is a standard practice."
From Wednesday, the Belconnen, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong libraries will be open with an interim schedule:
- Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10am-5.30pm.
- Saturday 10am-4pm.
- Sunday 12pm-4pm.
The Mystery Box and the Home Library Service will continue to operate.
The return date for borrowed items has also been extended until November 30.
"This is also important to note because return chutes will initially only be open at the three library branches that are reopening," Ms Wickman said.
The government spokesperson said Access Canberra was also finalising plans to reopen the Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin service centres from Monday, October 18.
They will deal only with appointments booked by ringing 132 281.
"These bookable appointments are to assist members of the community who may need extra support with their transactions, or where a transaction is not available online," the spokesperson said.
"A range of factors have been considered when preparing to reopen Access Canberra service centres including an assessment of the operational workforce requirements, staff safety, health and wellbeing, as well as the needs of staff with home-schooling responsibilities.
"Access Canberra has consulted with staff and engaged with the unions to ensure staff are supported and service centres can reopen in a COVID-safe way."
Meanwhile, the ACT Heritage Library will remain closed at this time. Historians and researchers can continue to submit inquiries via the Libraries ACT website.
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