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Tacoma: Details on library layoffs — and could more libraries be closed?

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Jan. 18, 2011 at 11:23 am |
January 18, 2011 10:49 pm

As we detailed Sunday, the Tacoma Public Library is preparing to shut down two small library branches as part of trimming nearly $2 million to meet budget targets for 2011-12.

In addition, 16 library staffers throughout the library system received layoff notices last week, and another seven vacant library positions were eliminated.

The layoffs are largely “based on seniority, as specified in our bargaining agreements,” said Kathleen Earl, Tacoma Public Library’s human resources director.

“We did a lot of modeling to try to figure out which positions we were going to eliminate, and a lot of discussion with supervisors and managers about what the staffing needs would be,” she added.

By position, here are the employees who will lose jobs:

One part-time accounting technician
One part-time graphics technician
Three full-time library associates
Two full-time library assistants
Nine part-time library pages

In “full time equivalent” terms, the 16 workers actually account for 14.8 FTEs on the library’s employment rolls. The amount saved by the layoffs and the added position cuts will be about $1.4 million for the biennium, Earl said.

Before they leave at month’s end, the laid-off staffers will get training in resume building, job interviews and other re-employment skills. Their names will also be placed on a recall list, meaning they will be the first candidates considered for filling any funded positions that come open, Earl said. Under labor contracts, the term of the recall list extends 13 months, she added.

The library is also leaving vacant a number of other positions — including a branch manger, two librarian positions, two information-technology positions and a part-time custodian. Together, the unfilled positions will save about $50,000 for each month left vacant, Earl said.

“We’re in desperate need of these positions, but we haven’t yet reached our budget targets so we’re holding them open,” Earl added.

As for the roughly 100 remaining library staffers, a number of them will also be re-assigned to new jobs throughout the city’s eight remaining libraries as part of a system-wide reorganization under new budget realities, said Susan Odencrantz, library director.

“The ramifications are not done,” Odencrantz said. “Staff is going to be moved around, and there’s just a huge a mount of work that goes into that.”

“A lot of people are upset,” she added. “But I have to say, even some of the staff that were given layoff notices, there was so much empathy coming from them for the remaining staff and what they will have to go through in the next few weeks. It’s like they were more concerned for others than themselves. That’s just the kind of people we have.”

Even with the Swan Creek and MLK branch closures, layoffs and the additional maneuvering, the library system must still find more cuts to make as the budget unfolds, said Tony Hudson, president of the Tacoma Library Board of Trustees.

“We’re not yet in the mode of sustainability,” Hudson said last week. “We’re still out a quarter of a million bucks, and we’re going to have to find that sometime in the third quarter.”

And where will those prospective trims be made?

“It might just have to be the closure of a mid-size (branch),” Hudson said.

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