Mercury News – Library board meets ahead of vote on layoffs: Union wants more public input before decision

Published in San Jose Mercury News on Sept. 26, 2011


SANTA CRUZ — The city-county library board met in closed session Monday to discuss layoffs ahead of next week’s vote on a new staffing plan designed to keep the system’s 10 branches open longer.

Fifteen clerk positions are slated for elimination and others would have hours cut under a plan that reclassifies positions. A new service model was OK’d earlier this year to trim costs in a way that would protect small branches from closure and increase hours at all sites.

Library managers and city officials have been meeting with union leaders for weeks to identify the impacts of the cuts, which include stripping benefits for workers cut from full-time to part-time. A final version of the plan is expected to be made public Thursday before the board deliberates Oct. 3.

“We don’t feel the public has had the opportunity to ask critical questions before our libraries are reorganized into something less than they are now,” said Khanh Weinberg, a spokesperson for Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents the clerks. “At a time when unemployment is at a record high, we need jobs for working families, not more layoffs.”

Library Director Teresa Landers said revisions have been made since an initial plan was circulated to staff earlier this summer, but it wasn’t clear whether less jobs are on the chopping block. Details weren’t available Monday, but Landers said the “substance of the plan hasn’t changed.”

The Library Joint Powers Authority board took no action Monday. If trustees and the Santa Cruz City Council eventually approve the layoffs, termination notices likely will go out in November, Landers said.

After months of turmoil over a new service model, board president Barbara Gorson said Monday that she doesn’t want trustees to veer far from the management’s recommendations. The board had been split this spring between shutting four smaller branches in favor of bigger sites, versus keeping all branches open using more volunteers to do lower-skill labor — both of which required staffing cuts.

“Unless something has changed, I’m under the assumption we need to move ahead as planned — that we need to get this transition into place, get hours increased and give it a chance,” Gorson said.

In other library news, all branches will be closed Oct. 21-24 and there will be limited checkouts and account access Oct. 17-20 as the library updates its card catalog system. Staff asks that items not be returned during this period, and items checked out after Saturday will not be due until after Oct. 24.



WHAT: Proposed staffing reductions to match a new service model

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3

WHERE: Central Branch, 224 Church St.

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