Whilst some services run by councils, including libraries, museums and leisure centres have been forced to close their doors as we tackle COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that councils have forgotten the valuable role they play in our daily lives.
From helping parents to home school and entertain their children to supporting young people’s services, here are a few ways councils have ensured residents have access to their collections:
Like many others around the country, Durham County Council libraries offer access to Ancestry (Library Edition) free of charge for people visiting library computers. However, with libraries remaining closed, people in Durham can now enjoy exploring their family history from the comfort of their own homes. The council has now made the service available for people to enjoy free of charge on their computers, giving residents another tool to enjoy from the safety of their own homes.
At the end of May, on what would have been Braintree District Council’s next outdoor street market, the council hosted their first virtual street market due to the current social distancing measures. The council aimed to bring the street market directly to residents, virtually and all in one place through Facebook, connecting residents with local small independent traders to keep the borough’s street market community spirit alive. On a Facebook event page, local traders could share what they’re selling and signpost residents to discount codes and how to buy goods.
Barnsley Council recently launched its new campaign #WhatsYourMove, which encourages people in the area to move more at home and safely in their community. The council is asking residents to share how they are exercising with the council, pushing the message that it doesn’t matter what type of movement you do, as long as it makes you feel good and raises your heart rate. Most recently, the council created a kindness video for Mental Health Awareness week, encouraging people to smile, wave and say hello while they’re being active in their community.
Lincolnshire County Council is using its social media channels to host a virtual youth club, encouraging young residents to take part and engage in a (virtual) social activity. Hosted on the council’s Facebook page, activities include learning basketball tips and tricks and quizzes.
Hackney Council’s Life Under Lockdown project aims to create a space for residents of all ages to share and express their experiences of COVID-19. The council is encouraging residents to submit recordings, photos, films, writing or artworks they’ve created over recent weeks that reminds them of this period or captures their thoughts and feelings. A selection of residents’ contributions will be shared on the council's new Hackney Spirit website.
Like many others, Staffordshire County Council has taken its library offer online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve expanded their offer to include staff book readings and craft time, available on their social media pages, and Q&As with their librarians. In just one month, their Facebook followers have doubled to almost 8,000, evident of the importance of this service to residents.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s Healthy Lifestyles is supporting people of all ages and abilities to stay active in isolation. They’ve created a variety of online resources and challenges hosted on their Facebook page, including their Walking Challenge Group for those who are able to get out of the house for exercise and their Active for Life Personal Challenge workouts that can be done in your living room or garden.
Visit Brighton has temporarily rebranded its channels to Do Not Visit Brighton in the wake of COVID-19. They’re encouraging potential tourists and residents to explore the area virtually instead. Their live webcam gives access to their beautiful beachfront from the safety of your own home, whilst many of their museums are now open for virtual tours.
Like others, Leeds City Museum has been forced to close its doors as we manage the response to COVID-19. Now, they’re taking to their social media channels to ensure that their newest exhibition still reaches the public. Every Tuesday and Thursday they’ll be sharing the exhibition online with a commentary. They’re also encouraging the city’s residents to share their experiences of isolation for a new animated movie.
Kingston upon Thames librarians set up a livestream on their Library and Heritage Service Facebook page, with story time sessions for children, book reviews and tutorials to help residents who might be self-isolating. In the week of 23 March alone, it reached nearly 10,000 people. They are now planning online events for every week and sharing the schedule in advance, so residents can work it into their schedule, with a key audience identified for each activity. Library members can still access all of their digital resources, and for those who might not have joined before the library shut their doors, they can simply join online for full digital access.
Achieving for Children's (AfC) Youth Service, run by Kingston and Richmond, has responded to this unprecedented 'lockdown' by moving online, supporting young people with social distancing, staying indoors and helping to fight the spread of COVID-19. The new digital youth offer launched this week and includes podcasts, Netflix parties, an online running club, FIFA league, spoken word and music events, LGBTQ+ sessions, competitions, drop-in sessions and much more. Check out the popular dance class by Karl from Mini Movers that has been transformed into a virtual dance video and published on Facebook.
Haringey Council has added a ‘Stay Creative’ page to their website with the aim of supporting residents to stay occupied during social distancing measures. The 'Stay Creative' page features content from local artists and venues, supporting both residents and local creatives during a difficult time.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) communications support and templates
In this unprecedented time, it has never been more important for councils to communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders: from residents and businesses to at risk groups and employees. Things are changing hour by hour and with each change comes a new demand for complex communications about COVID-19.