Covid-19, health pass … Libraries are mobilizing to bring readers back

At the entrance to the Rolland-Plaisance media library in Évreux, the discussion is surreal. A young woman arrives, without her health pass, when asked her age at reception, she retorts: «18 years “. «But do you have them or are you going to have them? Because that changes everything! “ we answer him. The health pass is not compulsory for minors and although Lisa, who takes care of the reception, would like to let everyone pass, she complies with the law. It only allows sesame holders to enter since the introduction of the health pass.

«It’s like that all the time, at least one in two users does not have their pass and does not even know that they must have it to enter ”, she specifies, tired. «Usually, when you come to the library, which is a public service, you can’t help it. We had to refuse entry to a job seeker who came to do his dealings. We sort it out at the entrance, that’s not normal ”, indicates the young woman.

“A stab”

Gilles Leblond, the director of the media library, denounces “A step back” … “We are no longer considered essential shops, because there is no need for a pass to go to the supermarket for example», he insists.

The exasperation is palpable within the whole team. After disastrous attendance figures in 2020, the slope seemed to be picking up at the beginning of 2021 but the number of daily users is still far from what it was in 2019. The number of loans is on the decline by 20% compared to 2019.

Stay as flexible as possible

Since attendance is compromised, the Rolland-Plaisance media library has questioned itself so that the library can be accessible, even remotely. «We are doomed to reinvent ourselves ”, observes Johanne Balemboy. The media library’s digital development manager quickly launched the digitization of the entire catalog of books and films available on site, so that it could be accessed from the Rolland-Plaisance website. It also means that most of the organized events and activities take place on Skype or in the open air. «We have to go out and meet the public ourselves if we want to avoid the health pass ”, she believes.

On the spot, it also requires some resourcefulness: «We must remain as flexible as possible so that users are not harmed, emphasizes Johanne Balemboy, even if it means going ourselves to bring the books to the door if the person cannot come in… ” Which often happens elsewhere. No one in the public that frequents the library seems to be aware of the pass restrictions.

A place of culture and meeting

In an average town like Évreux, the media library is an important place. Like the theater or the museum, it is a central cultural center, located in the heart of the city of 50,000 inhabitants. During the confinements, the Ebroïciens missed her a lot, starting with the students. Esther is writing her university thesis, and this summer, she spends all her days there: «I couldn’t wait for it to reopen! I can’t seem to work at home. The students spend most of their time alone so it’s nice to have a place to hang out, even if we keep quiet, it’s not the same atmosphere. “

Between students and retirees, the same fight! The pandemic has accentuated their feeling of loneliness. Dominique suffered from it. She comes to borrow books but especially for events organized here where she used to meet friends.. «For me it’s mostly a social place and I miss it. »

This does not surprise Gilles Leblond, for whom the library is above all “A place of life, sharing, discovery and meeting». To bring visitors back, a whole series of events is planned during the month of September in the media library.

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“It is difficult for us to leave people at the door”

Anne-Marie Vaillant, president for Île-de-France of the Association of Librarians of France.

“Several municipal libraries closed their doors for a few days this summer to protest against the presentation of the health pass. A call for a national and indefinite strike was launched on August 24. Indeed, many established a gauge of 49 people but this is no longer possible. The implementation of the health pass hurts librarians because they cannot fulfill their universal reception mission. We did everything to adapt to each new decree. It is difficult for us to leave at the door people who respect barrier gestures but who are not vaccinated. Concretely, this results in children who can enter the library but not their parents. “

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