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Fairfax County Public Library will lift capacity limits, but curbside pickups are here to stay

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Fairfax County libraries will return to their pre-pandemic state of operations in June — with a few exceptions.

Starting on June 5, standard circulation procedures will resume, including the return of fines on overdue materials and hold expirations, and visitors won’t have to navigate time or capacity limits, Fairfax County Public Library announced yesterday (Thursday).

In addition, public computers can be used in 30-minute increments with unlimited sessions allowed, and meeting rooms will once again be available for public bookings.

In a change from its earlier operations, FCPL says it will introduce expanded hours at its 23 branches, with the eight regional branches opening from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays.

The 14 community branches will open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Community branches will not be open on Sundays.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, FCPL had been in line for a funding boost to support longer, more consistent operating hours and allow branches to acquire more materials, but that plan was put on hold after the pandemic forced the county to pull back on its spending.

FCPL Communications and Marketing Director Erin Julius confirmed that the expanded hours coming next month are not the result of any new funding.

“FCPL moved around hours to provide the best service we can under existing budget constraints,” she told Tysons Reporter.

Since temporarily closing in March 2020, FCPL has been gradually transitioning back to normal, in-person operations, but library officials plan to retain some of the practices adopted during the pandemic that have proven popular.

Introduced in June to limit contact between staff and patrons, curbside services will still be an option for patrons looking to pick up materials without needing to go inside. It will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on days when branches are open.

Libraries will also continue offering “robust” virtual programming to complement the in-person programs that will be allowed to resume indoors and outdoors on June 5.

The initial response to FCPL’s announcement suggests that people “are thrilled” that curbside pickups will continue, Julius says.

FCPL Director Jessica Hudson says curbside service “has been immensely popular” and virtual programming “has been a boon” for patrons, freeing them from worrying about logistical issues like traffic and parking.

“Even as things are reopening and we’re getting back to ‘normal’, the library wants to continue to offer programs and services which the public is asking for,” Hudson said by email. “…We look forward to seeing our library users in the method that suits them best!”

In accordance with Virginia’s guidelines, some public health protocols will remain in place even when FCPL resumes full services:

Due to capacity restraints, branches cannot yet accept donations.

Plexiglas shields at customer service desks will remain in place at this time.

FCPL continues to follow Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and local Health Department guidance on mask wearing and social distancing. All visitors are welcome to continue to wear masks, if they choose, and caregivers are expected to ensure that their children ages 5 through 12 follow current masking guidance.

Please do not visit a branch if you have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone who tested positive or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

Correction: The name of Fairfax County Public Library’s director has been corrected. Her name is Jessica Hudson, not Jennifer as originally stated.

Photo via Fairfax County

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