Heartfelt Handwringing But No New Fundraising at BPL Trustees Meeting

BPL President Amy Ryan told the library's board of trustees last Tuesday that the elimination of 80 positions would cause "tremendous upheaval" and "miscalculations" as the pared-down institution developed a "new service model" to cope with the increased demand for library services. Of the 80 positions, 17 are vacant. Of the remaining 63, 41 will be cut as off October 1, and the remaining 22 by spring 2011. Shrinking the staff  will set in motion internal reassignments as a result of union contract rules that protect its members based on seniority, Ms. Ryan continued. When a job is eliminated, the employee is entitled to "bump" someone with less seniority from another job. In addition, the custodial staff at Copley has been reduced from three shifts to two. Partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors have been rolled back as well for lack of staff support, forcing the BPL to focus on "some but not others." It is a "tremendously hard time" for the staff, Ms. Ryan concluded.

Despite the handwringing over layoffs and the reality of further budget cuts, the trustees did not announce any upcoming private or public fundraising proposals, or discuss any specific ways to raise money at the local, state or federal levels. Numerous suggestions made earlier this year by library patrons, including a voluntary annual payment by library card holders of $10 or more, appear to have been placed in the BPL dust bin. Innovative and lucrative ventures employed by other library systems to stave off layoffs and closings (see FOSEL post Sept. 12), such as in Ohio's Cuyahoga County System, which added Passport Acceptance Locations to its libraries, were not part of the BPL trustees agenda last Tuesday, either.

Trustee Zamawa Arenas's "main concern" was the emotional support of the staff, she said, but seemed comforted by a lengthy presentation of the Staff Transition Committee that detailed extensive support and outplacement services put in place with the help of "consultant services." Chair Rudman pledged that if he "heard of some openings" he would certainly pass the information on and, referring to trustees Donna DePrisco and Paul LaCamera,  volunteered that if "Donna or Paul knows of somebody," they might want to do the same. Trustee James Carroll wanted to know if someone would be watching "the dustballs accumulate" now that the custodial staff had been cut. Ms. Ryan assured him someone would.

About 60 people attended the bi-monthly gathering, the majority employees of the city or the BPL who had left their desks behind for the morning meeting. While open to the public, questions from the public about proceedings at the publicly funded library were not allowed by chair Rudman. He suggested questions be emailed to the clerk of the board, instead. Of the eight trustees, only six showed up. Trustee Berthe M. Gaines, appointed in 1984, seldom appears and was not present today. A recently appointed trustee, Carol Fulp, was absent, as well.