Charmouth Community Library

Location: The Street, Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6PE 

Contact: 01297 560640


What we did before Lockdown

We have two rooms in the library and the our Community Managed Library used to be open for three hours a day, all five weekdays, plus two hours on Saturdays. We provided the usual book services as part of Dorset Libraries and LibrariesWest. A Rhymetime group for small children and parents met out of hours once weekly in the library area.

Accessed through the library is a separate room which is normally used as a simple café and study space, and which could be hired for meetings, events or group activities such as the sewing group, bridge club, and writers’ discussion group. There is a small kitchen area, store-cupboards and a toilet. We have a large collection of second-hand books, DVDs and jigsaws for purchase (donation) as well as jigsaws for loan This room has also provided an Outreach Post Office one day every week since June 2019.

The Library after Lockdown

The Post Office Outreach service is counted as an essential service and so remained in operation throughout and is supported by the Parish Council. A small number of library volunteers staffed the building, managing the queue and answering questions. That meant our letterbox was open for book returns and two of us shared dealing with these and any other library issues throughout.

We were asked almost on a weekly basis when the library was going to open again by so many locals that when we knew it would be possible to open, much of the thinking had already been done and we were virtually ready to open. We had a screen erected and moved furniture, developed risk assessments and had worked out our covid-safe procedures, assisted by our CLLO (Community Library Liaison Officer) and other Dorset Council Libraries’ staff. Several of the procedures vary from normal working practices (e.g. due to quarantine) so all new processes have been written for all volunteers to follow.

Risk Assessments are available and up to date covering all eventualities: we have RAs for the library service, for the PO, and one for the general cleaner; we also have individual personal RAs for those who volunteer in the Library and the PO (not always the same people now that other volunteers are returning).

Re-opening Hours and Processes

We are currently open two hours on Monday afternoons and two hours on Friday mornings, with some activities being done out of hours. These dates/times were chosen as they fit neatly allowing quarantine between openings.

Processes are quite changed. While we still have two volunteers on duty there are two distinct roles:

An ‘outdoor’ volunteer looks after book returns, Track and Trace information, queue management, and acts as the ‘tourist information’ point (we are a very busy holiday village). On wet days the tables and volunteer move into our lobby.

The indoor volunteer deals with the borrowers, book deliveries, book queries etc. At present, as with all LibrariesWest libraries, there is no reservation service and no book circulation among libraries so borrowers are limited to what is on our own shelves.

The ‘café’ area is closed other than for Post Office Outreach. Second-hand books etc are not available (we may change that soon if we can). No group meetings or other activities can take place for now.

Lessons Learnt

Post Office remained open during the worst of the pandemic. 

We had a lot of positive comments about the fact the Post Office remained open during the worst of the pandemic, as well as big thank yous to volunteers for opening up and being there.

The library reopened on 20th July and we are pleased by how well it has gone.

A few of us had done an enormous amount of thinking, planning and preparation beforehand which was very worthwhile. We have had such a welcoming reaction from locals about the library being open again.

Our planning has required so little change from that proposed. Only minor adjustments to the procedures have had to be made although the written instructions have been updated more to ensure those changes are clear, especially for the returning volunteers who were not involved in any of the original planning. We also have special cleaning procedures and products for volunteers, on top of what the normal cleaner does.

While library visitor numbers are not high, it is worth being open.

We have had so many saying ‘thank you’ and ‘so pleased to see you open again’. Good atmosphere. While there are no reservations and no book circulation among libraries, we are making much more of the brand new books.

We are gradually introducing other returning volunteers.

For the first three weeks, only the ‘Day Team Leaders’ (six of us, the more knowledgeable volunteers) were on duty, and now we are gradually introducing other returning volunteers. Volunteer numbers are and probably will not be back to where they were, but for now, only being open two days a week should be fine.