La Jolla Library set to reopen for in-person services Oct. 3 with 25% capacity
The La Jolla/Riford Library is one of a dozen San Diego city libraries scheduled to reopen for limited indoor services Saturday, Oct. 3, at 25 percent capacity. The libraries will be opening their doors to patrons after more than six months of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The other libraries reopening this weekend are the downtown Central location, Carmel Valley, Point Loma, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Malcolm X/Valencia Park, Mira Mesa, Logan Heights, San Ysidro, Mission Hills-Hillcrest and College-Rolando.
In-person services won’t be exactly the same as before the coronavirus. The libraries are allowing computer use, printing, book pickups and some in-person help to find titles. They’re also expanding outdoor space at several locations and renting out plastic-coated laptops so people can work or take distance learning outdoors.
But patrons can’t peruse the stacks alone, nor can they use study rooms, labs or any meeting spaces.
“We want to start small for now,” said Joe Miesner, a supervising librarian at San Diego Public Library. “We don’t want to have to go backward.”
The 12 libraries will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. They will close between 1 and 2 p.m. daily for cleaning. Face masks are required, and patrons must have their temperature taken on arrival.
The city libraries are being cautious in more ways than one. When California announced its new tier system in late August for grouping counties by amount of coronavirus spread, San Diego County fell in the red tier. For the past month, libraries in that tier have been allowed to open throughout California at 50 percent capacity.
San Diego’s 25 percent capacity is more modest than the state guidance allows. The conservative approach, however, prevents the city libraries from going through yo-yo state-mandated guidance. Libraries in the most restrictive purple tier must limit capacity to 25 percent under the state’s rules. San Diego County may fall into the purple tier in coming weeks if coronavirus case numbers trigger the switch.
Local county libraries opened for in-person services in early September. The city’s 36 libraries, however, remained closed, with their websites noting outdated state guidance as the reason for halted services.
“Our libraries offer San Diegans a treasure trove of resources, whether it’s access to health information, distance learning, job searching or even just a book to pass the time, and we need them now more than ever,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. “We’re reopening our libraries with health and safety as the top priority while also expanding digital access to give residents more opportunities as we get through this pandemic together.”
Library workers were not furloughed during the closure but instead were reassigned to other city departments that needed staff. The workers are returning to reopening branches as needed.
Miesner said the limited reopening is the second phase of a multiphase plan at the city’s public libraries. The first phase was contact-free pickup that has been available at some library locations since the end of May. There’s no official word on when the third phase of reopening will begin.
County and city officials hope to have outdoor play structures reopened by this weekend.
“Our libraries have been closed since March 13 and, although we have added pickup service and virtual programming, there is no substitute for welcoming patrons into our buildings,” Library Director Misty Jones said in a statement. “While we are offering limited services when we reopen, our staff will be working diligently to expand services as quickly and safely as possible.” ◆
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