Musical staff

Couldn’t get staff to open Ocean Beach Library

The 1928 building in Santa Monica and Sunset Cliffs was closed,

At the Ocean Beach Library, March 13 marked an occasion no one wanted or expected to see: the start of its third year of full closure.

It’s a status shared by only two other locations (Clairemont, Mountain View/Beckwourth) in the city’s 36-branch system.

Library officials point out that although the community’s historic 1928 building in Santa Monica and Sunset Cliffs has been closed, services for OBceans have continued. Virtual programming allowed families to gather around a tablet for story time and other online services. The old-fashioned phone line has been available for reference inquiries with a live Ocean Beach librarian working set hours. The book depot accepts returns, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And while there is no specific date for reopening, officials believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. The city is approaching some 145 potential library assistants with final job offers that — fingers crossed — will soon see Ocean Beach resume a six-day-a-week schedule, said Misty Jones, library manager. municipal, in a telephone. interview this month.

It is more likely that Ocean Beach will open on a two-day schedule, similar to what has been put in place at the Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa branch. The full schedule will resume once enough employees have been hired, trained and fingerprinted and have passed final background and health checks, Jones said.

When will it happen? “I’m more than ready and excited for Ocean Beach to be open,” Jones said. “If it’s not before summer, it’s going to be devastating. I really hope before summer.”

What’s taking so long? There are two reasons, the main one being a huge shortage of employees which took eight months to remedy.

Reason #2? When the city selected 13 locations for limited in-person services in October 2020 and began adding branches in June 2021, other communities, for various reasons, were placed in line ahead of Ocean Beach. It’s a point that many OBceans, who need only look to the nearby communities of Point Loma and Pacific Beach to see new libraries and watchtowers, might recognize with a knowing eye roll.

Municipal libraries have been hit as hard as anyone during the pandemic. “We’ve lost about a third of our staff,” Jones said.

The process of restoring depleted ranks began last summer. In total, the city has advertised more than 270 library jobs and accepted applications through July 26. A certified list of suitable candidates arrived from the city’s human resources department in October. The highest positions were recruited first, allowing employees to grow. “We want to keep that talent in the system,” Jones said.

A total of five “hiring processes” were conducted, with over 500 in-person interviews. Final selections for the two lowest-level employees, Library Assistants 1 and 2, were made last month. Those candidates are now receiving phone calls and formal written offers from human resources, Jones said.

A decision to phase out hourly positions in favor of full-time and part-time positions has improved the candidate pool, Jones said. And hourly employees who have progressed can start working sooner because they’ll need less training and can skip the extra checks needed for new hires who aren’t in the system, she said.

The Ocean Beach branch experienced additional setbacks. There was no branch librarian until the recent hiring of Christy Rickey Meister. In February, the branch lost its popular youth services librarian, who moved to North Carolina, and another employee was transferred, Jones said.

“Just when we thought we were getting there, we had two more vacancies,” she said.

At the start of this month, the branch had only four of its budgeted nine employees. The Point Loma/Hervey branch, which is open but also short-staffed, has borrowed from Ocean Beach staff, Jones said.

When the first 13 libraries reopened, city policy required at least one branch in each city council district, depending on factors such as ease of access, collection size, parking and public transportation. . In District 2, choosing the Point Loma/Hervey branch, one of the largest in the system, was a no-brainer.

“It’s the flagship branch of this civic district,” Jones said of the 2003 two-story building that lists a computer lab, media room and several conference rooms among its amenities.

Next is (using pre-division map boundaries approved last December) the Pacific Beach/Taylor Library, which was built in 1997 with a large meeting room, projection screen, and even a grand piano, and is nearly three times the size of the Ocean Beach branch.

It’s been a hive of activity at both places. For a week, Pacific Beach/Taylor and Point Loma/Hervey hosted events offering tax relief, crafts, music, lego building, baby/toddler story time, chess and meetings for the elderly.

The other two border libraries — the 1958 Clairemont branch and the 4,579-square-foot Ocean Beach branch — remained closed.

“I know some people don’t venture to Point Loma. We had to make some tough decisions,” Jones said.

Mary Cairns, president of Friends of the Ocean Beach Library, a group that organizes book sales and has been heavily involved as the branch’s expansion plan gains momentum, was “disappointed” but patient throughout. along the closure.

“We understand the protocols and the staffing issues, covid and the like. Hopefully it won’t be much longer,” Cairns said.

Ocean Beach’s first event of the year is scheduled for April 9 at 10:30 a.m. It is a STEAM event – STEAM standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics – titled “Trash into Treasure: Creating plastic landscapes”.

It will be held on the lawn if the building is not yet open, Jones said.