In-Depth: San Diego Library to expand digital options as pandemic ends

Virtual options will enhance in-person services
Posted at 5:57 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 10:29:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego's libraries plan to reopen for complete in-person services after June 15 slowly. Still, the new focus on digital and virtual programming will stay long after people start coming back to the branches.

"We really want to build on what we've learned this last year," says library director Misty Jones. "We'll continue to be able to offer the virtual programming and offerings, and also the in person."

The pandemic forced the library system to rely heavily on digital programs. From March of 2020 through February of 2021, San Diegans checked out 702,044 digital assets (ebooks, magazines, computers, etc.). The library also had 4,046 online course enrollments and 3,263 language-learning hours completed, and created more than 800 new virtual programs, attended by 2,458 people.

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"We learned that there are so many different ways that we can engage with the public, and there are so many different ways that people can experience the library. We're going to continue that," says Jones.

To help, the library's budget next year has an additional $1.3 million for digital and virtual programming. That money will go towards buying more ebooks, computers, and WiFi hotspots. The library will also use it to expand online programs and outdoor internet access.

But the emphasis on digital also comes at a time when the overall library budget is in jeopardy.

Mayor Todd Gloria's latest budget proposal slashes $5.6 million from the overall library budget. Most of that comes from the elimination of 100 jobs and through closing all library branches on Sundays and Mondays.

Jones says they're negotiating with the mayor to offset some of the cuts. She believes they'll only have to remain closed on Sundays and that the job cuts will be absorbed through a reorganization of the staff, turning many part-time jobs into full-time positions.

She's hopeful whatever cuts remain won't be permanent.

"I think we just have to rethink the way that we do services and make sure that we're working smarter and not harder," Jones says.