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Arlington libraries to fully reopen in January, at last

Arlington County libraries are set to finally fully reopen in the new year, marking the end of nearly two full years of limited service.

Library branch hours are being extended starting January 3, with some branches set to remain open as late as 8 p.m. and Sunday service restored at the Shirlington branch.

The only branch not being reopened is Bozman — formerly known as the Plaza Branch — at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, which is undergoing an extensive 16-month renovation and expansion along with the rest of the county government’s headquarters. The library’s redesign will include modern furnishings, a new children’s book and media collection, and more space for programming like storytimes and author talks. It’s expected to reopen in a year, January 2023.

Since early summer, Arlington Public Library has been slowly expanding services. In June, several branches opened for the first time since March 2020 but only offering express service. A month later, the express service model ended but limited hours remained.

In September, the two remaining closed branches, Cherrydale and Glencarlyn, reopened to the public for the first time since March 2020. Then, the next month, Sunday service was restored at the Central and Columbia Pike branches.

The reason for the staggered and lengthy reopening process to restore library hours and service to pre-pandemic levels was due to a “high number of vacant public service jobs after an unprecedented staff shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent hiring freeze,” as was noted in a September update.

But those shortages are in the process of being resolved, according to library officials.

“The labor market continues to be challenging for everyone, including the library,” wrote library spokesperson Henrik Sundqvist, in an email to ARLnow. “We continue to steadily work through the challenges and will have staff in place to fully reopen the library system on January 3rd.”

By contrast, Fairfax County restored nearly all of pre-pandemic service and operations in May. Alexandria is resuming mostly normal operations later this month.

Central Library’s makerspace “The Shop” also reopened last week by appointment only. Two hour appointment blocks are now being accepted.

The free makerspace opened to the public in April 2019, equipped with wood working tools, soldering irons, circuit parts, sewing machines, 3D printers, and lots of other tools.

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