NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has announced its plan to reopen the county's libraries as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The council has planned for a phased reopening of the library service from Monday, July 6 - two days after lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

However, only an order and collection service will be available in the first weeks of opening.

Collections will be available by appointment only, and it is expected that only limited numbers of visitors may be allowed in library buildings at a time.

Coun. Cath Homer, cabinet member for arts, culture, leisure and tourism at the county council, said: "We fully recognise how important our libraries are to our communities and it is a testament to our staff that they have continued to provide a library service during the lockdown which has consisted of digital, social media and practical support for our library customers.

"Over recent weeks our libraries have provided over 3500 befriending calls, developed a Doorstep Delivery service for vulnerable residents, as well as seeing a significant increase in the use of our digital resources. For our digital resources alone, we have seen a 41% increase in website use and over 2000 new digital library users.

"Our approach to reopening library services will be phased and fully based on the government guidance and ensuring that our library customers and residents are safe at all times.

"We look forward to welcoming our residents back to our libraries in the future. In the meantime, residents can keep in touch by following our libraries on social media where we are posting information, advice and sharing what we are doing including reopening information."

The council said there would be no browsing, no access to computers, printers, photocopiers or public service in person at libraries across Northumberland at this time.

Furthermore community managed libraries, such as the one in Haydon Bridge, would be fully supported by the county council, and encouraged to reopen at their own pace.