In response to surging coronavirus cases, the Palo Alto City Library has temporarily closed the Children’s, College Terrace and Downtown libraries and reduced hours of operation at Rinconada Library.
The Library has faced closure and staffing shortages as a result of budget cuts at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. It initially reopened in May 2021 with limited staff and took a step forward during their gradual reopening in the fall.
“This is part of a plan we developed in collaboration with the City of Palo Alto,” Library Services Manager Alex Perez said. “All departments have been suffering from staffing shortages due to the Omicron situation; the reason we took the step to close the branches was to allow us to stagger our employees … to keep them safe. In order to do that, we had to bring staff from the smaller locations to the larger locations.”
“Right now, I don’t think it’s as big of an impact [on high schoolers] because it’s not finals week, it’s the beginning of the semester. But I know people definitely still rely on the space to get wifi and collaborate with other classmates for schoolwork on the weekends.”
— Julia Yan, junior
Effective Tuesday — in addition to the three temporary branch closures — Rinconada Library’s newly reduced hours of operation are Wednesday-Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“Right now, I don’t think it’s as big of an impact [on high schoolers] because it’s not finals week, it’s the beginning of the semester,” junior Julia Yan said. “But I know people definitely still rely on the space to get wifi and collaborate with other classmates for schoolwork on the weekends.”
Mitchell Park Library hours will remain the same, though a range of measures have been introduced into all open locations. Seating has been arranged to enforce social distancing, study rooms will remain closed and the Library recommends patrons to limit their visits to 45 minutes, emphasizing its digital services for students.
“We still have book holds for people so they can pick up books,” said librarian Elena Kapbassov. “Or they can [check out] audiobooks online.”
Perez said these changes are temporary in response to Omicron, and that the Library will continue efforts to expand when possible.
“It feels like we’re taking one step forward, one step back,” Perez said. “But it hasn’t changed our longer-term plans … to expand Rinconada to six days a week, Mitchell Park to six days a week, and then the three other smaller locations to three days a week. … I hope that maybe by the middle of the year we’ll be in a better situation to expand hours.”