According to Library Director Teresa Landers, the decision to restructure the system’s budget and staffing was proposed in April and garnered final approval in a 6-3 vote at the Library Joint Powers Board’s Oct. 3 meeting.
Under the new plan, Landers said, the system will put more than $500,000 from its estimated $11 million budget toward replacing antiquated technology.
The plan will create a $1 million emergency fund over the next five years. It will also maintain and replace library vehicles — including the bookmobile — and create a centrally located reference desk in Santa Cruz that library patrons will be able to remotely contact from the smaller outlying branches via electronic means.
“The board made a commitment of 8 percent of the budget to new material,” Landers said. “We need to put some money aside just to replace what we have.”
Landers acknowledged that job cuts for library staffers — 11 are slated to lose their jobs, and others will face reduced hours — proved a tough pill to swallow, calling the decision “an unfortunate reflection of the times.”
“It’s extremely unfortunate that we have to lay off people to do this,” she said. “If this is the service we want to provide, this is the staffing we’re going to need to do that.”
The cuts should not translate into a noticeable difference in quality of services, Landers said, adding that for safety reasons, all branches will have at least two workers on site during hours of operation.
Valley branches see change
Under the new plan, starting in January, libraries in Felton, Boulder Creek and Scotts Valley will all be open more hours and more days , with a second hours increase scheduled for July.
n The Boulder Creek branch will be open 28 hours over five days a week, up from 21 hours over four days. The on-site staff will be a full-time library assistant and a part-time aide, most likely a student.
n The Felton branch will increase its hours from 15 to 20 per week, opening five days instead of three. The branch will be staffed by a part-time library assistant and a temporary part-time aide.
n The Scotts Valley branch, the largest of the three, will be open six days each week for a total of 44 hours, up from five days and 34 hours. The branch will be managed by a senior library assistant, with the help of several junior library assistants and temporary aides.
Landers cautioned that library assistants, which the system will bank on to run most of the outlying branches, are not the same as librarians.
The difference being the two positions is that a librarian holds a master’s degree in library science and can specialize in programming, collections and reference whereas the library assistant does not have a master’s and is trained more in the day-to-day operation of a library.
The system’s librarians, Landers said, will be pooled with information specialists to provide the planned remote reference section and will be sent to branches only during peak hours – more in tune with a librarian’s job description.
“We’re concentrating librarian time during critical times,” she said.
Landers stressed the need for modern equipment to keep the libraries relevant and useful to the community — particularly for those who rely on libraries for Internet access. She pointed out that many of the system’s computers are more than a decade old and often will not support the websites and programs people need to apply for jobs online, for example.
“It all has to be in balance,” Landers said. “We can have all the staff in the world, but if we don’t have the equipment — books, CDs, DVDs, vehicles — (the public) is not going to use us.”
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