Digital downloads soar, events go virtual and libraries welcome new account sign ups as residents turn to books and stories for escape

A central feature of community life, Hull’s libraries continue to be a lifeline to many with people turning to their local library for cultural sustenance. A trend that looks set to continue as we stay home for a third, winter lockdown. 

Books and stories are providing an escape from the pandemic's lockdowns and restrictions.
Books and stories are providing an escape from the pandemic’s lockdowns and restrictions. Photo: Jerome Whittingham @photomoments.

When Hull’s 12 library branches were forced to close in March as part of the national lockdown, Hull Libraries remained open online, as it saw a surge in requests for digital resources. Now as we enter a third lockdown, books look set to be as popular as ever, with people expected to turn to reading to occupy the long dark winter nights. 

Since March, when we entered the first lockdown, thousands of new users signed up for a library account with ebooks flying off digital shelves via the library’s ebook platforms Borrowbox and RBDigital resulting in thousands of issues of audio books, ebooks, magazines and comics.

The Magic Place by Chris Wormell was the most popular children’s book, with JK Rowling and David Walliams the most borrowed children’s authors, demonstrating that fantasy and humour genres provided the perfect escape. Following the 2020 national trend for crime novels, thriller Blue Moon by Lee Child was the most borrowed adult fiction book. 

Top 10 Children’s book issued by Hull Libraries in 2020:

The Magic Place by Chris Wormell

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Wrecking Ball by Jeff Kinney

D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer

The Creakers by Tom Fletcher

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

The Beast of Buckingham Palace by David Walliams

Pog by Padraig Kenny

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin

Top 10 Adult books issued by Hull Libraries in 2020: 

Blue Moon by Lee Child

Time to Say Goodbye by Rosie Goodwin

Liverpool Daughter by Katie Flynn

The Forces’ Sweethearts by Rosie Archer

Four Sisters by Val Wood

Two Sisters by Josephine Cox with Gilly Middleton

The Last Thing She Told Me by Linda Green

A Silent Death by Peter May

Girls in Tin Hats by Annie Murray

Finding Cassie by Anna Jacobs

Hull’s School Library Service continued to provide vital support for staff and students.  Since students returned to school in September, ithad its busiest term ever, with over 1,300 boxes of resources distributed to schools across the city. It also delivered 32 virtual author visits in its ‘An Author a Month’ programme, as well as revamping three school libraries.

The team’s early year practitioners have also kept busy, publishing weekly Storytime, Baby Bounce and Toddler Tunes sessions alongside Monday craft sessions. With views in their thousands, they’ve provided a welcome distraction to babies, toddlers and parents.  

Marjorie Brabazon, Chair Hull Culture & Leisure Board, explained: “Reading is the perfect escapism and the popularity of audiobooks has contributed to people looking for something to pass the time or help calm their worried or anxious minds. 

“Hull Libraries remains open online with the team on hand to provide residents with entertaining resources from books and hibernation inspiration to online storytime sessions. 

“Groups provide invaluable support and a lifeline to many lonely or vulnerable people who just want to hear a story or chat. While online sessions for under-fives have helped to keep little ones entertained and develop their love of language, literacy and learning. There’s also been creative craft sessions, with street dance sessions and virtual hangouts in the Makerspace. 

“The entire Libraries team has worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances and like many, they’ve been asked to use their many varied skills to do things they’ve never done before. I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to them.”   

Hull Libraries has kept users updated via a new newsletter. From free resources to just being there for people to chat, it has also continued to provide vital services like bus passes, blue badges, visas and computer access. 

Marjorie continued: “Books and reading are lifelines for so many, providing escapism and meaning in difficult times. We’re really proud to continue to provide a service, in the heart of our community.”

Hull Libraries is always open online. It is currently operating an appointment-based service for essential computer access, alongside a free select and collect service. Visa services, blue badges, bus passes and parking permits should all be done online or over the phone where possible. For details of online activities and upcoming virtual events follow Hull Libraries on social media. 

[Rebecca Aspin – Home PR]