As the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to be of concern across the country, a number of public libraries have been making the decision to curtail their hours, revert to a “hybrid” model, offer curbside book pickup options for patrons — or even shut down all or part of their operations for the rest of the month of January 2022.
Some of the latest actions taken by libraries mirror what occurred earlier in the pandemic, when lockdowns, mandates, business-hour restrictions, and other steps were put in place because of the coronavirus.
In a “service update,” the New York Public Library (NYPL) recently announced, for example, that it is “pausing all in-person programming and events at our locations until January 31, 2022.”
On its website, it says that “while our branches are still offering general library use and seating, unlimited browsing, laptop and computer access, and more — staffing shortages are impacting some locations.”
An exterior view of New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in New York, in an image dated 7/13/2020. The New York Public Library’s stone lions Patience and Fortitude have donned face masks to remind New Yorkers to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Ron Adar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
It also notes that “masks are required for people ages two and up at all NYPL locations.”
‘Forced to reduce hours’
North of there, in Larchmont, New York, the library system says it’s “been forced to reduce its hours because of an unexpected staffing shortfall as an omicron variant-fueled coronavirus surge gains momentum,” according to a local Patch report.
“We are extremely short-staffed and consequently are adjusting library hours,” library officials said in a statement about the move. “Since we hope this situation will be short-lived, we are not implementing appointments for browsing or for curbside pickup.”
It added that patrons may call and request curbside service if they choose.
‘Allow for increased distancing’
In Mission Viejo, California, the Mission Viejo Library will require appointments to enter its facility, beginning Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The city said the move is to try to “manage the number of people in the facility and allow increased distancing” during the current omicron surge.
A health care worker conducts a test at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Dan Paul Plaza on Dec. 29, 2021 in Miami, Florida. In response to the increasing demand for COVID-19 tests, Miami-Dade County opened two new testing sites and expanded hours at the Zoo Miami testing location.
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Today’s community-focused public libraries support their residents and patrons with services that go beyond book borrowing, of course — those include literacy programs, computer access, and other related services and projects.
“Many school divisions rely on the value of public libraries, and Suffolk Public Schools is no different,” Anthonette Ward, a community engagement officer for the Suffolk Public Schools, in Suffolk, Virginia, told Fox News Digital in an email. “The need for public libraries is critical in the academic development of our children and our adult learners.”
“Public libraries provide opportunities for collaboration between students, staff, and community stakeholders.”
The public libraries, she added, “serve as safe, accessible, and free resource centers for every citizen of the City of Suffolk. Public libraries provide opportunities for collaboration between students, staff, and community stakeholders.”
As of this writing, the city of Suffolk, Virginia, has not closed its libraries because of COVID-19.
A library is shown with an "open" sign and directions for "drive-thru" service.
And while many other libraries across the country are also keeping their current hours and days of service — that is not the case everywhere.
‘In-person programming suspended’
In Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno this week said the public should seek other ways of conducting city-related business — and that guidance includes the curtailing of services from the Central Library and its branches, according to local reporting.
Right now, all in-person programming, including computer access and use, is suspended in the library system in Springfield.
A note at the top of the Springfield Library’s website says, “Springfield City Libraries are temporarily reducing hours starting January 4th, 2022, due to the increased number of cases of COVID-19. Please continue to check back here or call us for future updates.”
While the instances noted here are not meant to represent a precise cataloguing of all actions by libraries nationwide, Americans need to know what specific community services are available to them in their respective areas. It’s wise to call around to know exactly what’s open and when — and how you may use your local library if and when you need it.
A mom is shown reading a book to her child. Some libraries are reducing their days or hours of operation due to the current omicron surge — while others are closing completely or offering "curbside" pickup services.
“Closures are decided at the local level,” Macey Morales, deputy director in the communications and marketing office at the American Library Association (ALA), told Fox News Digital on Thursday. “Unfortunately the ALA doesn’t track closures as the association does not govern U.S. libraries.”
Book lovers in Raleigh, North Carolina, by the way, may be disappointed by this related piece of news: Book sales hosted by Wake County Public Libraries at the State Fairgrounds each May are canceled for May 2022. The deputy library director said the event is something the community enjoys; now, “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county [has] resorted to using online vendors,” according to WRAL in Raleigh.
Below are some tweets related to some of the actions certain libraries have taken during the pandemic.
Corine Gatti-Santillo is a contributing Lifestyle reporter for Fox News Digital.