WILTSHIRE bookworms are delighted as libraries have begun to reopen across the county.

This week the three largest libraries in Chippenham, Salisbury and Trowbridge opened their doors for the first time since March 20, with new safety measures.

Basil Nankivell, community library manager for Trowbridge Library said: “It’s been steady. We deliberately didn’t make a big fanfare of today to see how it goes, but the customers are absolutely delighted to be back, and we’re thrilled to be back as well.”

Library user Lily Cox, 40, who came with her son to Trowbridge on Monday, said: “We used to come a lot before lockdown and since lockdown we’ve been reading the same books. We love reading and he just wants more stories.

“We’re very excited, I told him this morning and he wanted to come straight away.”

Lily said that there were some concerns but the measures in place had eased those worries.

Jan and Phil Daybell, 68 and 66, said that they were thrilled for the reopening.

“We used to come every other week depending on how many books we got through,” they said.

Mother of four and former librarian, Tara Stannard, 37, came to get books out for her children and has been a member of the library since she was a child.

“This is the one service out of everything that closed down in March that I missed the most. We spent a small fortune on Amazon to keep the kids going,” she said.

She said that the safety measures in place were enough for her.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “The customers were happy to wear masks and take part in Test and Trace."

“The staff were delighted to hear the voices of children thrilled to be back.

“Regular customers were updating us on what’s been happening in their lives over the past few months and were delighted the library was there to provide them with new books.”

Over the first two days of their reopening 847 people visited the libraries with 167 people visiting Trowbridge and 155 customers in Chippenham.

In Trowbridge the library is open Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am-1pm and 2-4pm.

In Chippenham and Salisbury, the library is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the same times.

Commenting on the reduced hours, Mr Nankivell said: “We’re taking it bit by bit to see how it works, with the aim to go bigger.

“In terms of reopening other libraries and opening here for longer, discussions are happening.”

The library in Trowbridge only allows up to 90 people in the building and asking people to spend just 30 minutes to choose their books.

Computer access is restricted to 45 minutes and can be booked by calling the libraries or by booking in at their desks.

Services such as toilets, book clubs, newspapers and magazines and the reservation service are still unavailable for the time being.

Bowden Hill resident Martin Cozens criticised the council’s decision to only open public consultation – which over 7,000 residents took part in – on the reopening of Wiltshire’s libraries after the government announced they could reopen from July 4.

“The consultation offers a very limited service at a few libraries after August 10 or at a larger, unspecified number on different conditions by the end of the month or the end of September, implying a closure of most lasting at least six months,” he said.

“However, the council also indicated that any reopening depends on the ‘availability of staff and finances’, implying that it is the council, as usual, that will decide what is practicable and adequate.

“Presumably, this is because a ‘shortfall’ of some £50m has appeared in its finances, a fact that might explain the consultation itself.

“We must hope that libraries survive in some form.”

According to Wiltshire Council, Corsham, Devizes and Warminster libraries will reopen in the week beginning August 24.

In September, Amesbury, Bradford-on-Avon, Calne, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Melksham, Royal Wootton Bassett and Westbury libraries will reopen with an order and collect service with bookable computers.

A council spokesman said the mix of approaches would allow additional libraries to reopen and provide ‘increased coverage across the county sooner than would be possible with only a browsable service’.

But the smaller, volunteer-run libraries have not yet been scheduled to reopen and will be subject to an ‘individual approach’ due to their size, citing Aldbourne as an example.

“The last 10 or 11 libraries are so unique that we’re going to have to look at every single one uniquely and see what can be done and what can’t be done,” he said.

“That depends upon the infection rate. If the infection rate in Wiltshire continues to drop then you can take a bit more of a risk in terms of opening things than you can otherwise.

“But our problem is that some of these places are so small that you can’t socially distance. If you can’t socially distance and can’t open, what then can we do?”

He said that the council did not want to spend ‘enormous amounts of money’ changing the layouts of these libraries, admitting that the council did not know what to do under current guidelines.

Cllr Whitehead added that the council will monitor what happens at the larger libraries and ‘that will instruct us on how to deal with the smaller libraries’.

The mobile library service is also currently unavailable due to concerns over social distancing, however a decision on their status is expected in early September.