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

To cope with staffing challenges posed by ongoing COVID-19 infections, three Long Beach library locations will close their buildings to the public and shift to the “LBPL To Go” model starting next month, library officials announced today.

Starting Aug. 2, the Alamitos, Brewitt and Dana libraries will close to the public but still allow cardholders to schedule the pickup of materials, including books, DVDs, and Chromebooks, during regular operating hours, according to a July 20 memo from Library Services Director Cathy De Leon. Library staff at the three locations will meet cardholders at the door and hand deliver the requested items, according to De Leon.

During this time, cardholders may also schedule times to apply for and pick up new library cards, according to De Leon’s memo.

The city anticipates the closures will last through December.

“Physical space at these three locations will be inaccessible to the public during this time,” states De Leon’s memo. “Public computing areas, reading rooms, and restrooms will be closed.”

The library system made this decision as a way to deal with the “ongoing challenges posed by successive waves of COVID-19 variants,” according to De Leon.

The public libraries have “not been immune to the staffing struggles being experienced nationwide in the public and private sectors” because of COVID-19 variants, De Leon said in her memo.

In addition to the need for employees to isolate and quarantine periodically because of COVID-19 infections, the department currently has multiple long-term vacancies at all levels, including seven key vacancies at the supervisory level, De Leon’s wrote.

Library officials chose to close Alamitos, in Bluff Heights, because of its relative proximity to the Billie Jean King Main Library, and Brewitt, which is near Recreation Park, and Dana in Bixby Knolls because there are other libraries in those respective council districts.

Officials considered other locations but decided to keep them open because “they serve some of the City’s most socio-economically vulnerable residents, where access to a public library is critical for internet access, online job searching, and providing access to reading materials and early childhood development opportunities for families,” according to De Leon.

The city first instituted the LBPL To-Go system in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to maintain public access to library services and materials while still keeping the library locations closed as a way to slow transmission of the virus.

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.