Arlington residents should get used to the idea of pop-up closures at county libraries, as the local government continues to try to build back its staffing and address the impact of the lingering COVID crisis.
Library officials shut the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches on Jan. 13 and planned to keep them locked down through at least Jan. 16.
At fault, officials say, is insufficient staffing, partly caused by employees picking up the generally mild but easily transmittable omicron variant of COVID.
And the situation may get worse before it gets better.
“Over the next few weeks, we anticipate that COVID-19-related staffing shortages will have additional impacts,” a library statement noted. “We are assessing all programs, services and operations.”
The Arlington library system went into lockdown 22 months ago (March 2020) at the onset of COVID and, with limited exceptions, did not allow patrons back into branches until the summer of 2021, first blaming the pandemic and then a lack of staff due to budget issues. During the last six months of 2021, some progress was made in bringing all library branches back online, although not yet to the pre-COVID service level.
Arlington’s decision to shut down several libraries came a week after Fairfax County officials trimmed operating days at all its library facilities for much the same reason.