Amazon is no match for Long Beach's public libraries, despite what a recent article in Forbes said. In this photo, a library patron browses the stacks at the Alamitos Neighborhood Library. Courtesy photo.
A library patron browses the stacks at the Alamitos Neighborhood Library. Courtesy photo

For the first time in nearly six months, the Dana Neighborhood Library in Bixby Knolls will welcome patrons back inside for one day a week amid calls from the community to reopen, according to city officials.

Beginning Feb. 4, the library will allow patrons inside on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for services such as browsing, research assistance, computer use and more.

The news comes just weeks after library officials announced that the Dana, Alamitos and Brewitt neighborhood libraries—which paused in-person service last summer—would extend closures through the end of March amid “significant” staffing shortages, according to Cathy De Leon, director of Long Beach Library Services.

Previously, those libraries were expected to reopen at the start of the year.

A decision was made to launch a limited reopening of the Bixby Knolls area library early after complaints mounted from library regulars.

“We have received complaints from patrons who usually use all three locations,” De Leon told the Post.

The three closed libraries will not reopen fully until the city has hired enough staff to operate them—a bureaucratic process that is known to move at a snail’s pace. For now, De Leon confirmed that she was able to onboard some non-career, substitute general librarians to help support a lean library staff.

“These staff will be used to backfill at other locations while the senior librarian at Dana, Lauren (Nguyen)…goes to cover at Dana that day,” De Leon said.

Nguyen—a senior librarian who has been managing to-go operations at shuttered branches for months—will run the Dana library on Saturdays, the branch she previously oversaw before it closed last year.

“We don’t have enough staff to cover all three locations, and it made the most sense for us operationally to have Lauren go and reopen Dana because that’s her regular location,” De Leon said. “In general, we try not to have substitute, non-career librarians cover locations on their own for long periods of time because of various internal processes like cash handling, facilities oversight, etc.”

Nguyen said she’s working with De Leon to hire more librarians to reopen the other libraries as soon as possible. The three libraries specifically require senior librarians, who supervise operations and staff, and general librarians who provide specialized library services, according to De Leon.

“In the beginning, of course, you know, people were upset that we closed and they all think it was due to COVID…part of it was COVID, and part of it was that we don’t have the staff to keep (those branches) open,” Nguyen told the Post over a Zoom call last week. “People were doing OK with to-go services but now, you know, we promised we’d open in December. We’re hoping to fill up those three branches with staff.”

Tuesday through Friday, the Dana library, along with the Brewitt and Alamitos branches, will continue to only for to-go services, which allows patrons to still call the library to make requests and pick up items from staff who will hand it off at the door.

Patrons can use the LBPL To-Go function to place holds and pick up print and audiovisual resources such as books, DVDs and Chromebooks. Residents can also apply for and pick up new library cards.

Library officials have reiterated that funding to the library system is not being reduced.

“You can call if you need information or anything else,” De Leon said previously. “We’re just not letting people in the building right now.”

Last summer, library officials closed Bluff Heights’ Alamitos, since it’s relatively close to the Billie Jean King Main Library; Brewitt, which is near Recreation Park; and Dana in Bixby Knolls because there are other libraries in those respective council districts, the Post previously reported.

The Dana Neighborhood Library is located at 3680 Atlantic Ave. and will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays starting Feb. 4. The Alamitos, Brewitt and Dana libraries are still accessible by phone and for picking up items during regular library hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m.; Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The three branches will remain closed for all services on Sundays and Mondays. 

Kat Schuster is the assistant editor at the Long Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected].