Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday a dozen San Diego Public Libraries would reopen for the first time since mid-March, when they were shuttered as part of a state-wide shutdown order.
“Our libraries offer San Diegans a treasure trove of resources, whether its 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,” Faulconer said. “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.”
The library locations to resume in-person services include Central, Carmel Valley, Point Loma, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Malcolm X/Valencia Park, Mira Mesa, Logan Heights, San Ysidro, La Jolla, Mission Hills-Hillcrest and College-Rolando.
The libraries will open at 25% capacity starting Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The facilities will close for cleaning from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily and frequently touched areas will be cleaned hourly and after each usage. Everyone will be required to wear face coverings, have their temperature taken and practice physical distancing when possible.
“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,” said Library Director Misty Jones. “While we are offering limited services when we reopen, our staff will be working diligently to expand services as quickly and safely as possible.”
According to the library, in order to protect the health and safety of staff and guests some services may be limited or modified by staff, including time limits for computer use. A full list of in-person rules and requirements can be found on the San Diego Public Library website.
“The city continues to prioritize the safety of all staff and guests as we fight through this pandemic, which is why we’re opening in a phased and thoughtful way,” said Joel Day, the city’s senior advisor for COVID-19 response and recovery. “With enhanced sanitation protocols for every building, cleaning all equipment after each interaction, enforcing physical distancing and requiring face coverings, we have a plan that will allow residents to access these public resources while staying safe and healthy.”
With the pandemic shedding light on the urgency of bridging the digital divide, Faulconer also announced “SD Access4All” — an initiative aimed at tackling digital inequity by expanding broadband access in San Diego. According to city data, an estimated 53,000 San Diegans lack access to reliable internet, a resource that has proven vital for distance learning, employment opportunities and access to public health information.
The program creates patio areas at select library locations to offer free WiFi and plastic-coated laptop computers for public use in a physically distanced setting. Capacity and cleaning requirements for the in-person reopening will also apply to all SD Access4All locations.
While additional locations are currently being retrofitted for this program, these services are currently offered at the Central, San Ysidro, Skyline Hills and Malcolm X/Valencia Park branches.
In May, under the first reopening phase, city libraries began a contact-free pickup service at some library locations. Contact-free pick-up services will be maintained at 24 of the city’s 36 libraries.
–City News Service