Library study calls for staffing cuts: Two of four proposed service models would close branches

Santa Cruz Sentinel – Feb. 2, 2011

SANTA CRUZ — A task force studying the future structure of Santa Cruz Public Libraries has identified four options for the governing board to consider, all of which involve trimming staff and augmenting services to keep the $11.6 million system financially stable.

Two of the models recommend closing three to four of the least-used branches — Felton, Garfield Park, La Selva Beach and Branciforte — to save personnel, maintenance and utility costs, but they call for more open hours per branch. The other two models keep the current 10 branches intact, with one calling for specialized services, like technology, genealogy and youth outreach at certain locations, and the other offering a more community-based approach that spreads hours out among the sites.

Libraries Director Teresa Landers said each model will require staffing cuts and job reclassifications, with branch closures saving the most. But Landers said she hopes vacant positions and retirement incentives will help avoid layoffs regardless of which model the board ultimately selects.

The Library Joint Powers Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed service changes — Models A-D — beginning at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., and take additional public comment and possibly adopt a model at its regular meeting Feb. 14.

Landers plans to recommend a particular model, but declined to discuss it until after the public comment periods. She will explain the staffing implications with employees Friday, but stressed that the models are designed to do more than identify personnel savings.

“It is really much deeper than that,” she said. “This is the future of the system, where our libraries are going.”

Undertaken by a 20-member task force of board members, staff and citizens beginning last summer, the study is similar to other reviews under way in libraries nationwide as taxes and other revenue streams stagnate or dry up even as demand grows for electronic reading platforms and other ever-changing technology. The models demonstrate a range of service philosophies, from traditional facility- and staff-focused approaches to those that favor greater technology and more materials. Some board members favor closing branches while others want to maintain communitywide access.

The proposed models call for cutting staff positions between 10 to 15 percent, with each model including a built-in retirement incentive for 10 workers that offers $15,000 in continued health care coverage over a two-year period. The system currently has the equivalent of about 105 full-time positions, once temporary and on-call workers are included. The proposed models recommend cutting that to 89-95.

Doris Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union chapter representing library workers, said, “I think people are not going to be happy with all the different scenarios, but hopefully the library will do the best for the citizens and the staff. We all know at this point there are going to be cuts.”

Michele Mosher, treasurer of the Felton Library Friends, a fundraising and advocacy group that formed in 2002 when the branch was threatened with closure, said supporters will urge the board to approve Model C. That plan spares all sites and fully staffs them, but it is the most expensive, costing an estimated $340,000 more every year than the least expensive, Model D, which closes four sites.

“I feel like the library system has an obligation to serve all its constituents,” she said. “I’m not sure why the board members would vote to close branches when Model C proposes keeping all 10 branches open without depending on volunteers.”

Landers said shuttered branches could possibly stay open under a partnership with volunteers. But the system, which has sustained furloughs and drastically cut spending on materials to close a deficit, could save lease costs at the Felton and La Selva Beach locations, as well as utilities at those sites and at Branciforte and Garfield Park, which are owned by the city of Santa Cruz.

“It’s very trick to sustain that kind of commitment with volunteers,” Mosher said. “I’m not very enthusiastic about that proposal.”

FOUR LIBRARY SERVICE MODELS

MODEL A

Number of branches: 7

Hours: 290 total, 41.4 per branch on average

Summary: Closes the Felton, Garfield Park and La Selva Beach branches but increases materials spending to 10 percent of total revenues, versus the current 8 percent. Caps employee costs at 65 percent of total budget.

Cost: $11.349 million

MODEL B

Number of branches: 10

Hours: 337 total, 33.7 per branch on average

Summary: Keeps all branches open and calls for materials spending at 8 percent of revenues for the next two years and 8.5 percent for three years after that. Establishes a focus for six branches, including genealogy, youth services and technology, and leaves other four as general purpose.

Cost: $11.294 million

MODEL C

Number of branches: 10

Hours: 391 total, 39.1 per branch on average

Summary: Keeps all branches open and calls for materials spending at 8 percent of revenues for the next two years and 8.5 percent for three years after that. All branches are fully staffed and don’t require volunteers to open.

Cost: $11.437 million

MODEL D

Number of branches: 6

Hours: 268 total, 44.7 per branch on average

Summary: Closes Felton, Branciforte, Garfield Park and La Selva Beach branches and puts materials spending at 8.45 percent of revenues. Provides programs ‘where the people are’ and focuses on technological advances.

Cost: $11.096 million

Source: Final Task Force Report to the Library Joint Powers Board on Financially Sustainable Service Models

IF YOU GO

Public hearing on financially sustainable service models report

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz

INFORMATION: Read the full report at www.santacruzpl.org.

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