Libraries across Devon will close until further notice from Friday evening (March 20) as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Libraries Unlimited, which runs the county’s 50 libraries, had on Wednesday said it was committed to keeping as many of its libraries open as long as there was no government guidance to do otherwise.

In a statement on its website and inside some of the libraries, it said that library services are considered essential and a vital service to people who may be isolated or vulnerable, as well as a key provider of information in a difficult time.

Libraries were due to remain open unless they were in a building that has been closed, they were told to close by Government, or staff shortages mean that they are unable to open the library.

But on Thursday , it was announced that to keep staff, volunteers and customers safe and healthy, the decision had been to close sites in Devon and Torbay.

Plans are being worked on though that would enable a selection of libraries to be open for up to two hours each morning for customers to use the library via the self-service kiosk

A statement added: “During this service closure we are encouraging our volunteers to phone our readers regularly to have a social chat and to check in.

“We would ask customers to prepare during these final opening hours by borrowing any books and DVDs you may require, return any items you need to return and to make use of our IT services. Loans will automatically be issued for three months and this change will be actioned through to June.

“We request that customers respect the social distancing guidelines and give our staff suitable space whilst they are serving our community. Please also adhere to the handwashing and respiratory guidance. For libraries with self-service facilities please, where possible, use these facilities to reduce the social interaction for our staff and volunteers.

“Over the coming weeks we will continue to offer as many online services as we possibly can so that our libraries remain open to everyone, wherever you are in Devon and Torbay.

“We are developing plans for a selection of our libraries to be open for up to two hours each morning for customers to use the library via the self-service kiosks. These sessions will be unstaffed whilst staff are on-site in an area away from the general public.

“You can continue to view and explore our catalogues and resources online.”