San Diego will reopen final 10 library branches, including OB, by September, fully restore hours by next June
Post-pandemic reopening has been delayed by a decision to replace more than 170 hourly jobs with positions with benefits.
The Ocean Beach Library and nine other San Diego library branches that are closed to in-person services will reopen by September and overall hours across the 36-branch system will return to pre-pandemic levels by June next year, according to head librarian Misty Jones.
The city more than doubled the number of branches open to the public for in-person services from 12 to 26 on July 6. Jones said July 13 that the 10 remaining branches are slated to reopen in mid- to late September.
“We’re trying to do this as expeditiously as possible,” Jones said. “It could possibly be faster.”
By next summer, the city plans to have 51 hours of weekly service at 23 branches and 56 hours at 13 branches. The 13 branches will be open five hours on Sundays; the 23 branches will be open only Mondays through Saturdays.
The branches with Sunday hours will have those hours added incrementally in three waves. Downtown, Valencia Park, Logan Heights and City Heights are scheduled to get Sunday hours this fall.
Mira Mesa, Otay Mesa, Pacific Beach and Mission Valley are slated to start opening on Sundays in the winter. Point Loma, Carmel Valley, La Jolla, Kearny Mesa and Rancho Bernardo will get Sunday hours next spring.
San Diego’s finances, which were badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact on tourism, are sound enough to cover restoring library hours, thanks to more than $300 million in federal relief announced in the spring.
But the reopening of branches has been slowed somewhat by the city’s need to hire more than 170 workers. City officials decided recently to replace the library’s hourly positions with jobs with benefits to reduce high turnover rates.
Officials decided years ago that hourly positions with no benefits would save money and make it easier to fill small scheduling gaps, but Jones said the plan mostly backfired.
“There was just so much turnover,” said Jones, who added that the attrition rate was roughly 30 percent. “We found we were in a constant hiring process.”
A 2017 city audit recommended that officials deal with the hourly worker issue back then.
The pandemic worsened the problem. Jones and Mayor Todd Gloria announced in May that the city would convert the hourly jobs to either half-time or full-time positions with benefits, a complicated process involving labor unions.
Gloria had proposed cutting library hours by 23 percent across the system in April, but he retreated from that a few weeks later.
Jones said July 13 that she expects to hire enough workers by mid-August to reopen the 10 city branches that remain closed to in-person services.
The hiring is projected to take place in waves, with 58 workers hired this year, 35 more hired between January and March, and the final 81 hired between April and June.
Book drops at all 36 library locations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Point Loma/Hervey Library is open for limited in-person services from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays at 3701 Voltaire St. The Ocean Beach Library offers telephone assistance at (619) 531-1532.
— Point Loma-OB Monthly staff contributed to this report. ◆