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Dallas Public Libraries Are Back to Pre-COVID Staffing and Hours

For the first time in three years, all 29 Dallas Public Libraries will be open six days a week, addressing the needs of the communities they serve.
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The Vickery Park Branch Library is an important service provider for the Vickery Meadow neighborhood in North Dallas. City of Dallas

The Dallas Public Library returned to pre-COVID staffing and hours this week, meaning that every branch and the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library will be open six days a week, with occasional extended hours.

 “Increased hours and more staff will allow us to meet the community’s needs when they need it,” said library director Jo Giudice. “Besides access to books and computers, things like one-on-one computer help, job-seeker assistance, early literacy programs – all of it requires available staff and being open in evenings and on weekends when residents have the time to take advantage of those services.” 

In 2020, the pandemic first forced the city to close libraries and recreation centers as shelter-in-place efforts were enacted. Two months later, a $25 million budget shortfall attributed to the effects of COVID-19 forced the city to furlough 472 employees for several months. 

The impact was devastating. Neighborhoods didn’t just lose access to books, but also GED classes, internet access, and community programming. 

“Especially south of I-30, we need our rec centers. We need our libraries,” Councilman Tennell Atkins told the Dallas Morning News when the furloughs were announced. “It’s a part of everyday life.”

Over the next three years, the city’s libraries slowly came back online. Not all branches offered the hours and staffing that they had prior to the pandemic, though. The library used a scoring system to assess the needs of communities to gain funding last year for increasing the hours at 15 locations in 2022. That number increased again last year. 

“There would not be enough funding to restore hours at every location, so the Library wanted to ensure locations with the most potential to impact residents are opened first,” the library said in an explainer to the Urban Libraries Council. “Arguing for library openings based on a well-defined data-driven equity lens allowed DPL to retain support from Council Members who would not see additional hours in their district.”

One of those libraries was the Vickery Park Branch Library in Vickery Meadows, which, like all of the city’s 29 libraries, offered more than just books. At least 30,000 people live within a mile of the library, and 80 percent of those people are low-income. 

“Our libraries took substantial hits during the pandemic when we had to make necessary cuts to our budget,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who voted in favor of the extra money. “A lot of times those libraries are a lifeline for certain communities. They are the big brothers, the mentors, the college readiness, the homework help, and the gateway to economic mobility. Without having those resources and opportunities, we have done our part in forcing communities back to the street. That is what we are trying to prevent.”

The funding in the 2024 budget for an additional 65 library staffers will also allow the library branches to remain open six days a week. Some will be open Monday through Saturday, while others will be open Tuesday through Sunday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they will remain open until 8 p.m. See the schedule here.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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