Our Partners at Henshaws have posted a great guide for people with visual impairments visiting Manchester Central Library. Here’s what they had to say –

Part of our service offer to blind and partially sighted people across Greater Manchester is our digital technology provision. We carry out free 1:1 assessments and training to help find the digital solution for each individual that will help them with their independence.
We offer this service at a number of locations, one of which is Manchester Central Library – so we sent our Digital Team along to give us the lowdown on the COVID-secure measures that have been put in place in the building as part of our ‘Community Confidence’ strategy.

A COVID-secure Manchester Central Library

The teams at Central Library have been working hard to make sure your visit is as ‘normal’ as possible, but there are some changes to keep you safe and sound during these COVID-19 times.

The first thing of note is the limited opening days and hours – currently the library is open Monday to Thursday 10-4pm, and Saturday 10-4pm. It is closed Fridays and Sundays.  You can keep up to date with the latest opening times here.

They have a one-way system in place to enter and leave the building. The entrance is between the columns facing the trams stops at St.Peter’s Square. Staff and security will greet everybody entering the building to ensure everyone uses a face covering (unless exempt). There is plenty of signage around, and hand-sanitizers are available at the entrance and on every floor.

There are a couple of desks in the foyer, this is to facilitate the NHS Test and Trace programme. There are paper forms on the desk which ask you to enter your name and telephone, which then needs to be placed in a secure box on the desk. If you struggle to complete this form, staff and volunteers are on-hand to support you.  Once that is complete you are free to browse as you would normally.

Since our visit, a QR code should now be on display at the entrance, allowing you to complete the Test and Trace process with your smartphone (if you have the app installed).

The ‘new norm’ at Manchester Central Library

It’s business as usual in the library – even the café is open to take care of your beverage needs! The only thing I did notice is that there are no daily newspapers and magazines around – this is to reduce ‘touch-points’ (people using the newspaper/magazine then putting back on the shelf for somebody else to use). Again, this is to reduce the risks.

Similarly, if you pick up a book from a shelf, but decide not to loan it, then you need to place the book on the top of the bookshelf. Library staff will quarantine those (and any returned books) for 72 hours before they are put back on the shelves.

I feel the library have responded extremely well in these difficult times and have delivered a very safe and supported environment for all.

Digital Enablement Service in the VIP Suite

We are also back at MCL, delivering our Digital Enablement Service from the VIP Suite on the second floor. Currently, by appointment, we can help you get to grips with mainstream or specialist assistive technology. Just call us on 0300 222 5555 to arrange.

Other digital library services that are also available for visually impaired people at MCL – you can access computers with assistive technology, large monitors, adapted keyboards, headphones and scanners. They have had to reduce the number of desks in this area to allow for social distancing, so it might be best not to pop in but call in advance (Information and Business Service 0161 234 1990).

Further support

This blog and video forms part of our new Community Confidence Strategy, supporting blind and visually impaired people as we come out of lockdown and face a new ‘norm’ alongside COVID-19.

If you haven’t already, give our blogs a read about coming out of lockdown:

We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas for videos or blogs we could make that would help you feel more confident during these unsettling times.  If you have an idea, please drop us an email to info@henshaws.org.uk