Members, please see below correspondence from Terry Thomas NIPSA Assistant Secretary (acting) to Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities.

I write on behalf of NIPSA members employed in Libraries NI to express their concern at the recent announcement that Libraries should remain open during the lockdown period to enable their customers to undertake click and collect and access the building to avail of computer and IT services.

NIPSA members wish to express concern that the Government advices at this time in the face of what appears escalating risks around the evolving strains of the virus and its increasing infection rate particularly for those most vulnerable are not being applied to Libraries.

Members have asked me to advise of their concerns that the type of person using the Library Service at this time is primarily those who would be deemed as vulnerable and in line with recent Government Health guidelines are being advised to remain at home.

Whilst click and collect services are closed for retail businesses I ask why then would Government contradict themselves and implement this service which will primarily be accessed by those at most risk and be seen to encourage them to leave the safety of their homes.

Whilst NIPSA has raised this with Management it appears Management are reluctant to challenge the view of Government or perhaps “bite the hand that feeds them” however NIPSA members believe the safety of customers and staff at this time is paramount.

NIPSA believes the Government advice of lockdown clearly indicates this is the time for shielding and protecting those most vulnerable.

NIPSA members across all Public services have selflessly stepped into harm’s way to ensure essential services and whilst Management would seek to reassure members of Social distancing and health and safety measures in libraries it is ironic that they are working at home making these decisions from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

With the closure of Libraries over the holiday period NIPSA would ask that the Minister urgently reviews the decision to open libraries in light of escalating issues and health advice for vulnerable people who would primarily seek to access their services at this time along with the increased risks to both them and staff with this deadly virus.

Please note that I have copied this correspondence to the Chief Executive of Libraries NI Mr Jim O’Hagan for their information also. Yours sincerely

Terry Thomas
Assistant Secretary (acting)