2021 | Government

County announces reopening of six libraries, two senior centers

Libraries will operate by appointment, beginning June 1

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Some Montgomery County libraries will be allowed to reopen on June 1, according to County Executive Marc Elrich.

File photo

Amid mounting public pushback, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced on Monday that six libraries will reopen on June 1.

Two senior centers — the Damascus Senior Center and Holiday Park Senior Center in Silver Spring — will reopen June 14.

The six library locations will operate by appointment only. Visitors can browse and check out materials and use computers and print, copy and scan services. Meeting and study rooms will not be available.

The six locations that will reopen are:

• Connie Morella Library in Bethesda
• Gaithersburg Library
• Marilyn J. Praisner Library in Burtonsville
• Olney Library
• Rockville Memorial Library
• Silver Spring Library

Library hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.

“As our residents and employees are reaching safe thresholds of vaccination, we are ready to begin reopening our library buildings and senior centers for in-person activities and engagement,” Elrich said in a press release on Monday. “This reopening process will continue to evolve as many of our buildings and facilities are currently temporarily repurposed for other pandemic-related needs. We appreciate everyone’s continued patience, understanding, and compliance to COVID-19 safe practices while we reopen these buildings.”

Elrich and county officials have faced mounting criticism from some residents for the slow reopening of public facilities, like libraries, as COVID-19 metrics improve and more people are vaccinated.

The county’s test positivity rate has in recent weeks been at its lowest point of the pandemic.

On Monday, the positivity rate was 1.8%. The case rate per 100,000 people has also been low and steadily decreasing, dropping to 4.0 on Monday, the lowest point since March 2020.

As of Monday, 590,439 (56.2%) of the county’s residents were partially vaccinated, and 447,004 (42.5%) were fully vaccinated.

As recently as Wednesday, Elrich had defended the continued closures, saying staffing was not available to reopen the facilities.

Some County Council members, including Hans Riemer, have taken to social media in recent weeks to push for the libraries’ reopening.

In a Twitter post last week, Riemer wrote: “Not everyone can just order their next book on Amazon. Parents need places to take their kids. People need places to search for jobs. We need libraries open, even (with) limited capacity.”

In an interview on Monday afternoon, Riemer said he believes all of the county’s libraries should be open, and the executive branch should “do more” to staff them.

“This would have been a good start a month ago,” Riemer said. “This stuff really affects people’s lives, and we need to be ahead of the curve, not behind. Every neighborhood and community needs access to the library services.”

Since last year, 20 of the county’s 21 libraries have offered a “holds-to-go” pickup service, in which customers schedule appointments online or by phone to pick up their holds. More than 300,000 appointments had been made for the service as of April.

In an interview in April, Library System Director Anita Vassallo said several safety measures had been implemented for COVID-19 safety, including:

• Putting in plexiglass dividers
• Installing more self-checkout stations to limit person-to-person interaction
• Spreading computers apart to ensure social distancing
• Putting hand sanitizer stations in buildings.

Bethesda Beat Reporter Dan Schere contributed to this story.