It was not just the supermarket shelves that were being emptied ahead of the second lockdown in Ballarat - the same thing was happening at the city's three libraries.
Lesley Morgan, who works as the co-ordinator of Community Engagement and partnerships at the City of Ballarat Libraries, said staff were "gobsmacked" by demand for reading material.
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In the three-day run-up to the return of stage 3 restrictions on Wednesday, the amount of items borrowed was more than two-thirds of the total for the whole of June.
"All day, people just kept coming," Ms Morgan said. She recounted how one woman borrowed a total of 83 items from the Sebastopol Library this week (the City of Ballarat libraries do not limit the amount of books that can be taken out).
When we had to close before, I took so many phonecalls from people who were really missing their library. A lot of people were elderly and didn't have anything else to doLesley Morgan, City of Ballarat libraries
Overall library staff loaned out a total of 15,746 items after the state government announced the return of new lockdown measures to regional Victoria. That compares to around 22,000 for the whole of June.
Ms Morgan said the extra notice for the lockdown this time had been crucial.
"What was different this time is that last time we closed really quickly," she said. "People didn't get an opportunity to stock up
"This time, they had three days to come into the library."
Shout out to our staff at Ballarat Libraries who helped loan out 15,746 items in the past 3 days! 👏— Ballarat Council (@cityofballarat) August 6, 2020
To put that into context, loans for all of June this year were 22,000 📚
All City of Ballarat Libraries are now CLOSED until further notice. More details: https://t.co/j8iSLetOJCpic.twitter.com/uozNbOGvQQ
Librarians reported a similar high level of borrowing across all three of the city's libraries - which has branches at Wendouree, the main one on Doveton Street, as well as in Sebastopol. The main items were books, but members also took out talking books, DVDs and some magazines.
Ms Morgan said she could not remember as big a rush on library items before - and that borrowings of between 30 and 40 items was "a regular occurrence" this week.
"People kept coming back - our shelves are quite empty," Ms Morgan told The Courier. "Most of it was fiction, but a lot of it was non-fiction - things like gardening and cooking."
The level of borrowing was all the more remarkable given that all the libraries were operating under strict restrictions for the number of people who could be in the buildings at any one time.
Ms Morgan said she was delighted people were able to take advantage of the library's service ahead of this lockdown.
"When we had to close before, I took so many phonecalls from people who were really missing their library. A lot of people were elderly and didn't have anything else to do."
Ms Morgan was also keen to stress that online library services would remain available for the duration of the lockdown - even though the physical libraries are closed.
Ebooks, e-audio, magazines, and some newspapers are available through Pressreader as well as Kanopy - a movie and documentary service. All the services are available free to members. If you are not currently a member, you can still sign up online.
- For full details, go to www.centralhighlandslibraries.org.au.
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