The Loudoun County Public Library (LCPL) system is restricting access to two library branches — Ashburn and Rust — after recently reopening all of the locations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ashburn and Rust branches implemented curbside pickup service starting on Monday. The branches will be used as childcare facilities for the upcoming school year, according to county staff.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors decided to use the two branches after weeks of planning, according to Glen Barbour, public affairs and communications officer for Loudoun County. The decision came after Loudoun County Public Schools elected to operate at 100 percent distance learning to start the 2020-2021 school year.
The board took a straw poll vote via email on Aug. 21, Barbour said in an email to the Times-Mirror. Supervisors were on their August recess from meetings during the vote, and members of the Library Board of Trustees were notified after the email vote was taken.
“The county assessed a number of locations for this program, including schools, community centers, and libraries," Barbour said. “All of these sites, along with at least one leased facility, will be utilized to provide child care services at multiple locations throughout the community.”
The decision is expected to be ratified during the board's Sept. 1 business meeting, Barbour said. He added the facilities were selected based, in part, on their geographic location and other operational requirements.
The childcare program, which started on Monday, will be operated by the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services with some contracted support at certain locations.
Barbour said the county is working through the registration process with county and school employees this week. The program is anticipated to be available to other parents in the community as space allows. The number of childcare seats will be limited.
Some local residents are decrying the move on social media.
“I really thought libraries could be alternative places for children to do school if they lacked appropriate space in their homes or simply needed to get out,” Vicky Chrisner said on Facebook. “This is very disappointing.”
Sondy Eklund, who identifies herself as a former library employee, said, “Library facilities weren't built to provide childcare, and it's a poor use of resources - and unsafe to use them that way. Also, you can't guarantee the library materials from that branch all got quarantined after being touched.”
Courtnay Cozine on Facebook said, “I am not happy with this decision. Libraries are not childcare centers. I will be emailing the board.”
Library customers will be able to access curbside services at each location Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to county staff. The service continues to operate in the same fashion as it did when all LCPL branches temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Customers are encouraged to place holds through the online catalog at catalog.library.loudoun.gov or call the Ashburn (703-737-8100) or Rust (703-777-0323) libraries for assistance. Customers will be contacted through their choice of email, text or phone call when their items are ready to be picked up.
Curbside pickup service is contactless to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to county officials. Customers may return items to the library only during open hours. All returned items will be quarantined for at least four days before being removed from customers’ accounts. Patrons will not be subject to any late fees or penalties during this period.
The other eight LCPL branches will remain open with the same operating hours with the exception of the Law Library in Leesburg, with hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information can be found at library.loudoun.gov/curbside.