Countywide

Fairfax County Public Library to shorten hours, citing recruitment challenges

Fairfax County Public Library will soon modify its hours due to staffing issues (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 1:50 p.m. on 7/20/2022) Fairfax County Public Library will trim back its hours, starting next month, due to challenges in hiring staff.

Starting on Aug. 14, the county library system’s eight regional branches will be open from 1-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays.

The 14 community branches will operate from 1-9 p.m. on Monday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. Those branches don’t open on Sundays.

The Access Services branch at the Fairfax County Government Center will maintain its standard hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The adjustments will allow all branches to stay open seven days a week, since the new schedules require only one shift of workers, FCPL said in its announcement yesterday (Monday).

“The schedule modification is effective Aug. 14 because that gives staff time to adjust any staffing and programming schedules necessitated by the change,” FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius told FFXnow by email. “We also wanted to ensure we maintained higher service levels during summer hours when children are out of school.”

This is the second time so far this year that FCPL has adjusted operations in response to staffing issues. During the height of this past winter’s COVID-19 surge, the library system closed its branches for two days per week from January through March.

However, while that change had a clear end date of April 1, the latest adjustments will stay in effect indefinitely, according to the news release.

The staffing limitations have presented an obstacle to FCPL’s efforts to establish a new sense of normalcy in response to the pandemic. With its return to full in-person services in June 2021, the library system introduced newly expanded, more consistent hours — a longtime goal of advocates.

Fairfax County isn’t alone in struggling to attract and retain library workers. Libraries across the country have seen employees step away over the past two years, citing issues from burnout and inadequate compensation to public safety concerns and low morale partly related to an uptick in increasingly hostile book ban campaigns.

“Like many industries, public libraries are facing recruitment challenges that stem from some employees choosing to leave the workforce early, some reassessing their interest in direct public service work and competition in the DMV region,” Julius said.

According to Julius, staffing levels have varied on a daily basis, but FCPL has been averaging a vacancy rate of 18 to 20%.

The county’s budget for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, funds 390 positions, including about 374 full-time staff.