Questions & Answers about Libraries ACT and COVID-19


The ACT Government is making important information about COVID-19 available to Canberrans in twelve community languages. To access these translated information resources, as well as links to other language resources (including information from the Australian Government) please visit www.covid19.act.gov.au/community/translated-resources

Here are some answers to the most common questions we have been asked about being closed and reopening.

Q&A about reopening/closing

Is the library open?

From Tuesday 2 June, all our libraries will be open and operating regular hours. Some services are limited or changed so we can meet mandated restrictions.

We’re pleased to be able to take this next step in reopening the library, but still need to take precautions to protect the community and our staff and ask library users to follow important conditions.

  • Please keep your visit short (under 30 minutes).
  • Physical distancing measures and building capacity limits will apply.
  • If the library reaches its capacity, you will need to wait for someone to leave before you can enter.
  • You must practice good hygiene and use hand sanitiser when entering.
  • Do not visit the library if you are unwell.

Please continue to check this website and our social media for future updates.

Why did you start with only three libraries open? Why didn't you open your regular hours straight away?

All libraries are open regular hours from Tuesday 2 June.

Although some restrictions have been lifted, it is important to note that the pandemic is not over. Libraries are part of the ACT Government’s plan for easing restrictions. We are following expert advice and reopening and returning to services in a gradual way. This will help our public health experts to assess the impact of each decision.

With some restrictions still in place across the ACT, and Australia, some staff need to remain on leave for their own health and to support their families. Some staff were also redeployed.

Why were Woden, Dickson and Gungahlin branches chosen to reopen first?

These three libraries were chosen to open first based on their capacity, usage, location and accessibility by public transport. The aim was to cater to as many people as possible while still following restrictions and health and safety advice.

All libraries are open regular hours from Tuesday 2 June.

How many people are allowed in each library?

Following the one person per 4 square metres and 1.5m physical distancing requirements, libraries will have the following building capacity limits:

  • Belconnen = 50
  • Civic = 50
  • Dickson = 50
  • Erindale = 50
  • Gungahlin = 80
  • Kingston = 10
  • Kippax = 20
  • Tuggeranong = 50
  • Woden = 80
  • ACT Heritage Library = 10

These include members of the public and staff. Numbers will be monitored and if the library reaches its capacity, you will need to wait for someone to leave before you can enter.

How will the library manage physical distancing?

We’re taking a range of precautions to protect the community and our staff and ask library users to follow important conditions. They include the following:

  • Libraries will have on the floor signage marking physical distances. We’ll also make announcements in libraries to remind visitors of physical distancing and other precautions.
  • Building capacity limits will be monitored and if the library reaches its capacity, you will need to wait for someone to leave before you can enter.
  • Seating in the library will only be available for pre-arranged computer bookings, and computers will be spaced the appropriate physical distance apart.
  • Library staff will be able to help you with enquiries, while making sure they meet physical distance requirements. This may mean they explain something to you and ask you to do it yourself.
Why didn’t you open the library as soon as the National Cabinet announcement was made?

We’ve been planning for re-opening, but still need time to ensure the precautions and new processes are in place, as well as get equipment ready, and roster staff. We must also be part of the overall ACT Government plan for easing restrictions. The Chief Minister made a statement following the National Cabinet announcement on Friday 8 May that the ACT Government would be working through the framework endorsed by National Cabinet, and making arrangements for the ACT.

Why was there no notice of the closure?

At the direction of the National Cabinet, libraries across the country had to close at short notice. The health emergency is a quickly evolving situation and it is not always possible to give advance notice of changes. We understand this is frustrating and are working to identify ways we can provide services differently while our library branches are closed. Please regularly check this website and our social media for updates.

Is it safe to use the library / borrow items from the library?

Library items have similar risks to any other item that comes into contact with COVID-19. You should follow good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser for 20 to 30 seconds, especially when handling shared objects like library items.

Items that are returned will be put aside for a period of quarantine before they can be borrowed again. You may notice that items will not be automatically removed from your membership. This is to help manage the flow on processes that normally occur when items are returned. Items have had their due dates extended until 30 June, so this will not affect your ability to borrow or use other library services.

Extra cleaners and cleaning practices have also been organised.

If you have concerns, we encourage you to use our digital resources.

What have library staff been doing while the library is closed?

A lot goes on behind the scenes in libraries, and staff have been continuing this work, such as monitoring and adding content to digital resources, stocktaking, and evaluating and removing out of date collection items. There are also new tasks such as working on the digital helpline and creating new online programs as a way to continue serving the community.

Some staff have been on leave and supporting their families and children with home schooling. There have also been staff redeployment opportunities.

Q&A about using library services and resources

Is it safe to use the library / borrow items from the library?

Library items have similar risks to any other item that comes into contact with COVID-19. You should follow good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser for 20 to 30 seconds, especially when handling shared objects like library items.

Items that are returned will be put aside for a period of quarantine before they can be borrowed again. You may notice that items will not be automatically removed from your membership. This is to help manage the flow on processes that normally occur when items are returned. Items have had their due dates extended until 30 June, so this will not affect your ability to borrow or use other library services.

Extra cleaners and cleaning practices have also been organised.

If you have concerns, we encourage you to use our digital resources.

How can I access digital resources?

Your library membership gives you access to our digital resources. You will need your library membership number and passphrase to use them.

Digital resources include eBooks, eAudio, digital magazines, streaming movies and documentaries, downloadable and streaming music, literacy games and language learning.

Can you help me with the library’s digital resources?

Yes, we can. We have set up a special digital helpline. You can phone 6207 7265 from 9.30 am – 5pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays) for help joining the library online, or getting started with our free digital resources.

All the eBooks and eAudio are on loan. What am I going to borrow?

We have multiple eBook and eAudio options: BorrowBox, RBdigital and Overdrive.

We are aware of the increased use and interest in digital resources and have been putting extra content into them. We will continue to monitor this and add content.

Can I use the library computers/printers/photocopiers?

For members of the community who need to use computers, printers and photocopiers for essential services, you must make a pre-arranged booking to use computers/printers/photocopiers by contacting the library by phone on 6205 9000.

Due to the limited number of computers and time available, each booking is a maximum of 30 minutes.

Can you help me with the computer?

We can help you within physical distancing requirements, which means we cannot touch the computer or device you’re using. Staff can give you explanations or directions from a distance for you to complete your tasks.

What’s happening with library programs?

Library programs in branches are suspended until further notice. We expect this to continue for a while. We are working to deliver some programs to you virtually.

We are sharing Online Story Time and Giggle & Wiggle Online each week, including bilingual story times. You can watch them on our Vimeo.

Thank you to the Australian Society of Authors, Australian Publishers’ Association and Australian Library and Information Association for allowing us to bring stories to you in this way.

What about book clubs?

Book clubs can now make new reservations for book club sets.

If your book club would like to continue by reading and sharing discussions online, you can do this by borrowing eBooks from RBdigital which allows simultaneous borrowing of the same titles for some books. These books are listed on the RBdigital site as eBook Club.

I have an inter library loan / I want to make an inter library Loan. What do I do?

If you have an item currently on inter library loan it can be returned to the library.

It is not currently possible to place inter Library Loans.

Can I read the newspaper at the library?

No, we are currently unable to provide physical newspapers because unlike books we cannot quarantine newspapers between each use, and they get multiple uses each day.

Library members can access a range of digital newspapers through Press Reader using their username/membership number and passphrase.

Is the Home Library Service still running?

The Home Library Service has been postponed until further notice. We are contacting Home Library Service members and investigating how we can offer this service in future.

Is the library still receiving new items?

Yes, new items have been received over recent weeks. The library usually places orders for new items in advance of their publication so they can be delivered as soon as possible after their release. Orders have still been placed so this process continues.

Q&A about reservations

What is going on with reservations?

If you’re making a special trip to the library to collect a reserve, please phone and ask if it’s available.

For safety reasons, we’ve had to implement some changes to the way we work. This means workarounds in processes and delays in some services, like reservations.

For example, items that are returned to the library are put aside for a quarantine period before they can be borrowed again. This includes items that are reserved.

We unable to change the library computer system to reflect all the workarounds we’ve made. This means your membership account might say that a reserve is waiting for you, but it’s actually still in quarantine. We’re trying to find a way to fix this, but in the meantime, we would appreciate your understanding and patience.

What if I want to pick up my reserve from somewhere else?

If you want to change the pick-up location for your reserves, please contact the library.

When we only had three branches open (stage 1 of re-opening), reserves from other libraries were sent to the closest open branch for collection. If your reserve was one of these, it will stay at that library unless you ask us to move it.

Why is it taking so long to return items/get my reservation?

There may be delays in some services so we can take precautions and be COVID Safe. This includes changes to the way we process returned items and reservations. We apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Can we reserve items now?

Yes, you can.

Why couldn’t we reserve items when the library was closed?

Without knowing how long we would have to be closed for, the reservation function was switched off and no new reservations could be made for any physical library items. This is because we could not provide access to make physical items available to borrow.

It helped manage the many flow on effects on our processes, particularly with ensuring that existing reservations were not cancelled, as well as having space to store all the reserved items, and being able to manage physical distancing and other health and safety requirements.

Can we reserve and collect at the door / have them delivered?

No, this service is not currently available. We have been investigating options for services, but to offer this service across Canberra would be a large undertaking and we need to think further about this. Please check this website for updates.

Q&A about returning items

Can I return my library items?

Yes, you can. Please returned through return chutes at any public library branch.

My books are due to be returned. What do I do?

All items on loan during our closed period had their due dates extended until 30 June 2020. Items can be renewed online or by phone on 6205 9000.

Items can be returned through return chutes at any public library branch.

Why is it taking so long to return items/get my reservation?

There may be delays in some services so we can take precautions and be COVID Safe. This includes changes to the way we process returned items and reservations. We apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Is it safe to use the library / borrow items from the library?

Library items have similar risks to any other item that comes into contact with COVID-19. You should follow good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser for 20 to 30 seconds, especially when handling shared objects like library items.

Items that are returned will be put aside for a period of quarantine before they can be borrowed again. You may notice that items will not be automatically removed from your membership. This is to help manage the flow on processes that normally occur when items are returned. Items have had their due dates extended until 30 June, so this will not affect your ability to borrow or use other library services.

Extra cleaners and cleaning practices have also been organised.

If you have concerns, we encourage you to use our digital resources.

Q&A about the ACT Heritage Library

Can I access the ACT Heritage Library?

Yes, the ACT Heritage Library is open and has the same precautions to protect the community and our staff, and we ask library users to follow the same important conditions when they visit. Bookings are encouraged to avoid delays in accessing the library (phone 6207 5163). A temperature check may be required to use the ACT Heritage Library.

What can I do at the ACT Heritage Library?

For a maximum of 30 minutes, you will be able to:

  • Use computers. You must make a pre-arranged booking (phone 6205 9000). There will be a maximum of 30 minutes per person per day.
  • View our exhibitions.
  • Collect reserves when notified they are allocated to you and ready to be picked up.
  • Return items.
What if I need to conduct research requiring more than 30 minutes?

Researchers may conduct research using the collections of the ACT Heritage Library for up to two hours.  Bookings are encouraged to avoid delays in accessing the library (phone 6207 5163). A temperature check may be required to use the ACT Heritage Library.

How can I access information if I can’t visit in person?

You can email or phone the ACT Heritage Library on 6207 5163 with your Canberra history and heritage research requests and enquiries.
Please complete the form on our website https://www.library.act.gov.au/find/history/library

Keep an eye on the library catalogue for new digital content from the ACT Heritage Library.

Q&A about library membership

I’m not a library member. Can I join?

We are offering a new temporary measure so anyone in the Canberra community who is not already a library member can fast track their membership in joining Libraries ACT online.

To become a member, visit the register page of the Libraries ACT website and complete the membership form. After applying you will need to send through a selfie (clear photo of yourself) holding your proof of ID and ACT residency. This needs to show your full face, so we can check we’re joining up the right person and that you live in the ACT. This also makes sure we can meet our agreements with the suppliers of our digital resources.

I have a library card, but it won’t work. What can I do?

If you haven’t used the library since we introduced our new library catalogue, you can update your details online if you have your membership number and your old password/PIN.

If you don’t have a passphrase, but do have an email recorded on your account, you can use your membership number and email to re-register online yourself.

You’ll need to:

  • Go to the library catalogue and click on Login (top right-hand corner)
  • Check and update your name and contact details
  • Create a new passphrase (13 characters minimum, 30 characters maximum)
  • Accept the updated membership terms and conditions and privacy statement

If you don’t have a passphrase or email recorded on your account, we are investigating how we can help you update your membership. Check back for updates.

I’veforgotten my password/PIN/passphrase. What should I do?

You can use your membership number and email to reset your password online yourself:

Go to the library catalogue and click on Login (top right-hand corner)

  • Click on ‘Forgot your passphrase’ and follow the prompts to reset

Q&A about Access Canberra Shopfront and ACT MyWay Seniors Cards

Is the Access Canberra shopfront at the Civic library branch open?

The Access Canberra shopfront remains closed. Please visit www.act.gov.au/AccessCBR.

Can I get an ACT Seniors Card?

No, we are currently unable to provide ACT Seniors Cards. Good news is, from 1 July 2020, eligible residents of the ACT aged 60 years or over can now apply online using the Online Seniors MyWay Card application form. You can apply for replacement cards using the same form.

If you cannot access or require assistance completing the online application please contact  COTA ACT on 6282 3777 or the MyWay Administration Office on 6207 7711. Please visit the ACT Seniors Card website or Transport Canberra website for more information. You can download a printable version of the form on the Transport Canberra website.