Ocean Beach Library to reopen by June 30, San Diego says
The city library system also plans to add Sunday hours at Point Loma and several other branches.
The city of San Diego has hired enough new library workers to fully reopen the Ocean Beach Library and all other city branches by June 30 and will follow through on a plan to add Sunday hours at 13 branches, including Point Loma, according to library director Misty Jones.
The city’s 36-branch system has been slower to reopen than other area libraries because of a staffing shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic and because the city’s solution to replace part-time workers with full-timers was time-consuming.
Jones said last summer that all 36 branches would fully reopen Mondays through Saturdays by last September. But the lengthy process of filling more than 275 vacant positions scuttled those plans for months.
Ocean Beach is one of three branches that remain fully closed. The others are Mountain View and Clairemont.
San Diego’s project manager agrees to work toward having another community meeting soon to discuss the design.
Two more are partially closed — North Clairemont and Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa — and Jones said both are scheduled to return to Monday-through-Saturday service by early April.
Jones didn’t provide specific dates for reopening Ocean Beach, Mountain View and Clairemont, though she said all would have Monday-through-Saturday service by June 30, the end of the city’s fiscal year.
Jones said the city can soon start providing five-hour Sunday service at four branches and that it plans to eventually add Sunday hours at nine more, including Point Loma/Hervey. She said it’s possible she could finish rolling out the new Sunday hours by June 30.
“I’m very optimistic now,” Jones told the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee this week.
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Because of the pandemic, city libraries closed completely in 2020 from March 13 through May 26, when contactless pickup services were launched at 11 locations.
Thirteen more locations added contactless pickup during the summer of 2020, and the city opened outdoor computer labs at seven branches that fall.
The city also added more virtual programming, outdoor computer labs, Wi-Fi hotspot checkouts and online homework help.
In October 2020, 12 locations partially opened to the public at 25 percent capacity, with physical distancing and enhanced sanitation measures. Those branches were chosen based on criteria such as ease of access, available parking, proximity to mass transit, adequate staff, and a desire to have at least one open branch in each of the city’s nine council districts.
During the reopening process, Jones and Mayor Todd Gloria decided the pandemic was an opportunity to make a significant long-term change in library staffing.
They decided to replace the library’s hourly part-time positions with jobs that have benefits. The goal was reducing job turnover rates, which had been roughly 30 percent among hourly employees.
Hiring to fill those positions is taking about four to six months, partly because of the need for city officials to negotiate with the Municipal Employees Association labor union because the workers now will be full time and union-eligible.
Jones said the city also has struggled with the same shortage of available workers that private businesses have faced during the pandemic.
She said the city expects to fill 134 of 174 remaining vacancies with candidates who have already been interviewed and vetted but not officially hired. The remaining 40 slots will be filled by an additional wave of recruiting efforts, she said.
— Point Loma-OB Monthly staff contributed to this report.