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With most of its facilities locked up tight for the past 15 months – due first to COVID and then to purported budget woes – the Arlington government’s library system in early July will return to a slightly greater sense of normalcy.
County officials announced June 7 that Central Library and Aurora Hills and Columbia Pike branch libraries would reopen July 6. A decision on operating days and hours, and the exact level of services that will be available to patrons, remains a work in progress.
“We look forward to seeing you back,” said library officials, thanking the public for its “continued support and patience” over the past year and three months.
Patience, indeed: While Shirlington and Westover branch libraries have been open in reduced capacities for several months, the Arlington library system significantly trails many across the region and nation in its efforts to get back on track.
In neighboring Fairfax, for instance, libraries have been open since last summer (although they did close for a period during a spike in COVID cases over the winter) and most restrictions on library use are in the rear-view mirror.
In Arlington, however, there continue to be alterations to the routine, even with more facilities set to open:
• The Center for Local History at Central Library remains closed, with plans to open it (by appointment only) “later this summer.”
• Meeting rooms and public computers remain unavailable but are expected to return “as soon as staffing allows.”
• Storytime programs for young children “will resume branch-wide once staffing increases.”
• “The Shed,” a seasonal garden-tool-lending facility at Central Library, remains closed, “with plans to reopen in 2022.”
• “The Shop,” a “maker space” at Central Library, will remain closed “until staffing allows for increased levels of programming.”
• Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries remain closed until the fall. The Courthouse Plaza branch remains closed, but that is unrelated to COVID as there are plans in the works for expansion and renovation of the facilities.
Returned materials will no longer be quarantined – previously they had been held for seven days under public-health recommendations that have since been rescinded – but because of staffing shortages may not immediately show up as returned in a patron’s account once dropped off.