BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham Public Library has announced the furlough of 158 full and part-time library employees due to the financial impact of COVID-19.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the city has experienced a financial shortfall of $63 million. The decision to furlough BPL employees was made by the BPL Board of Trustees during a special called meeting held Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.

In a statement, BPL Executive Director Floyd Council said this difficult decision was not easy, but was necessary to move to a reduced staffing model and be fiscally responsible to city of Birmingham taxpayers.

“It is with sad disappointment that Library Administration had to recommend to the Library Board of Trustees for the approval to furlough 158 of our valuable employees,” Council said.” During these difficult COVID-19 and challenging economic times, public libraries and BPL are more relevant and needed now than ever before.”

Although the BPL Board of Trustees announced last week that Eastwood Branch Library will be permanently closed, the library board has not made a decision about closing any of the remaining 18 library locations.

Council announced that the Central Library downtown will re-open to the public for in-person service starting on Oct. 1, 2020. Regional curbside service will continue, but all other library branch locations will remain closed for now.