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Covid-related staffing shortages force Arlington libraries to shut down two branches this week

Arlington Central Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Covid-related staffing shortages are forcing Arlington libraries to shutter some services, including shutting down two branches this week.

Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries will both be closed through Sunday (Jan. 23), including the book drops, according to an announcement on Monday (Jan. 17).

Holds on the shelf at these branches will be moved to Central Library on Wednesday (Jan. 19) and available until Wednesday, Jan. 26. No new holds will be fulfilled at the two branches during the closure.

The current plan is to reopen the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches on Monday, Jan. 24.

“Operations will continue to be assessed, as these plans are contingent on current staffing levels,” Henrik Sundqvist, spokesperson for Arlington Public Libraries, tells ARLnow. “Announcements regarding resuming in-person programming will be made when we have more information.”

Also starting Monday, all in-person programs at Arlington libraries will be paused and a number of meeting and study rooms will be unavailable in order to cut back on workload and provide more space for staff.

All of this is related to a staffing shortage, notes Sundqvist, something that’s impacting many other businesses across the region and country.

Back in November, Arlington libraries announced the system was set to finally fully reopen at the beginning of January for the first time in nearly two years. That ended up being very short-lived, with two branches again closing only several weeks later.

The reason for the lengthy reopening process was due to a “high number of vacant public service jobs.” The library system has since increased hiring, Sundqvist confirms.

Dealing with holds, in particular, can be a tedious and time consuming task for staff, Sundqvist notes. Though, it’s understandable why residents may not have been picking up held books recently.

“When people don’t pick up holds, the holds need to be pulled and re-shelved which increases staff workload,” Sundqvist says. “It’s reasonable to think recent weather and higher levels of community COVID-19 affect people’s ability and willingness to come into the library and pick up holds.”

Additionally, in recent weeks, Arlington libraries has been distributing at-home COVID tests, which has increased staff workload. All locations are currently out of stock on tests.

It’s anticipated that the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches will be open for good and hold service restored starting next week, but Arlington libraries can’t make any promises.

“Our intention is to do everything possible to keep library locations open,” says Sundqvist. “However, like many other services in the region, we may continue to be impacted by COVID-19 related staffing shortages.”

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