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Printed books shelved as audio and e-books soar

Dan O'Connor
With libraries and shops closed book lovers turn to audio and e books  Flickr

With libraries and shops closed and essential items being prioritised over books, there has been an uptake in audio and e-books.

In support of the Government effort to fight COVID-19, Christchurch libraries closed their doors to the public and will remain closed until further notice.

In light of this, Council Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson said there had been a surge in library membership since the lockdown with people turning to digital services.

“We have welcomed an average of 54 new members per day...as more people recognise the wonderful value of their local libraries and all that they offer to the community,” said Robertson.

Last year libraries had an average of 19 new members daily.

“26,733 e-books and audiobooks have been issued over the past few weeks, an average of 2056 issues per day.

"This compares with an average of 1228 issues per day in March last year.”


Turanga Central Library
Libraries are closed until further notice due to lockdown Christchurch City Council

Rata Holtslag, a Librarian in Wellington, said it was too risky to open libraries, as books were touched by many hands, and paper could not be effectively sanitised.

"Librarians aren’t paid enough to risk their lives," Holtslag said. "It would be totally foolish to open them any time soon."

Cat Bridges, who is an admin of a book club on Facebook, agreed.

"I'd only think book delivery to be appropriate for new books - library books come with too much risk," Bridges said.

"I saw something about Uber Eats delivering books and thought that would be excellent!"

Bridges has also stocked up on her audible books.

"My audible stockpile is longer than I’ve had time for." 

Other members of the book club stocked up on library books before they closed.

"Books are essential for me personally, so I made sure I was well stocked with library books, my own bookshelves, and e-books," Rosalind King, from Auckland, said.

Book supply
Rosalind King and Kirstie Gillon-Wood stocked up on books before the lockdown Rosalind King/Kirstie Gillon-Wood

"As much as I love libraries, I think in this case, it's important to keep our librarians safe and reduce the mingling of people."

For Kirstie Gillon-Wood, Dunedin, books are essential. She also prepared for lockdown.

"As soon as I heard about lockdown I went to my local library and took out books for me, my husband and two boys," said Gillon-Wood.