The full range of in-person services are slated to return to the Mark Twain Neighborhood Library in Cambodia Town on Tuesday, Aug. 1, after being closed almost the entirety of July, the city announced Wednesday.
The city on July 6 announced the facility would be closed at least through the end of the month due to staffing shortages and chronic safety concerns in and around the building. Since then, the library, which serves about 3,500 people per month, has offered only to-go services.
Beginning Aug. 1, along with browsing for and checking out books, patrons will have access to public computers and printers, restrooms and the rentable meeting rooms, Tuesday through Saturday.
When the city announced the reduced operations earlier this month, Director of Library Services Cathy De Leon said there had not been recent reports of physical violence, but rather, staff regularly faced difficult interactions with visitors who required a high level of attention.
Worn out from such interactions, which were exacerbated by understaffing, De Leon said the temporary service reduction would give staff a breather while the city worked to address these issues.
“Over the last month, we brought in a trauma counselor to help staff decompress and process some of the challenges they’ve been going through,” De Leon said. “I believe we’ve been able to help them feel supported.”
“That’s why we feel good about reopening,” she added.
The city contracts with a private security company, which previously provided one security guard at Mark Twain. With the reopening, De Leon said there will now be two security guards, which will allow at least one to be on duty at all times.
Library staff also has talked with the Long Beach Police Department about increasing patrols, and clarifying expectations in terms of when to reach out to the department for assistance, De Leon said.
Staffing and safety issues are not isolated to the Cambodia Town library. Last year, the Billie Jean King Main Library in Downtown closed its doors to in-person services due to security concerns. Earlier this year, the Alamitos, Brewitt and Dana branches reopened after offering only to-go services for six months.
Hiring citywide has been a challenge regardless of department, De Leon said of the library system’s efforts to hire staff. Several job offers, however, have gone out over the last few weeks, she said, adding that Mark Twain is expected to be fully staffed within the next month.
“Those are really going to help us in terms of being able to really help our patrons feel like they’re getting good service and prevent our staff from burning out,” De Leon said.
Mark Twain also has a health educator who works on site to help connect unhoused residents and others to services, but the library system in general does not have any social workers on staff. De Leon said the department is looking at adding social workers as part of the 2024 budget process.
The Mark Twain Neighborhood Library is located at 1401 E. Anaheim St. Operating hours are:
- Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m.
- Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m.
- Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.