Countywide

Fairfax County Public Library will return to ‘normal’ hours soon, as staffing shortages subside

Dolley Madison Library in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s libraries are set to expand their hours later this month after going a year with reduced hours due to staffing shortages.

Last week, the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) system announced it will move back to “normal operating hours” at all 23 branches starting Aug. 28.

That means all libraries will open at 10 a.m. with the eight regional branches staying open until 9 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday and until 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The 15 community branches will be open until 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

The community branches will remain closed on Sundays.

Until Aug. 28, the branches will continue operating at the reduced hours put in place a year ago due to staffing shortages.

An additional $6 million dollars was approved as part of this year’s county budget to go towards library personnel services, which helped the library hire the staff needed to go back to regular operating hours.

“While recruitment remains challenging, the library has been fortunate to have retained a pool of amazing staff and hired some great new people enabling us to return to regular hours,” Deputy Library Director Kevin Osborne told FFXnow in an email. “We have active recruitments for several positions and are optimistic that we will be able to hire more great staff for our return to regular hours.”

Osborne said FCPL is continuing to staff up and is “confident” in returning to regular hours. It was only April when the vacancy rate was between 18% and 20%, but that rate appears to have dropped in recent months due to the influx of cash.

The budget covers 390 positions, but Osborne did not share the exact number of open positions or the current staffing vacancy rate, noting that many positions are “in various phases of the hiring process.”

After returning to full in-person services in June 2021, FCPL struggled to maintain expanded and consistent hours — a goal even before the pandemic. Budget cuts had reduced the system’s operating capacity after the 2008 recession.

But, according to Osborne, several open positions are on the way to being filled, allowing FCPL to return to normal operating hours and maintain them for the first time in potentially years.

“FCPL would like to thank the people of Fairfax County for their patience and understanding as it navigated the effects of the pandemic and staffing difficulties,” reads the announcement. “FCPL is excited to once again be able to offer everyone a greater opportunity to visit its branches and enjoy its array of services.”