Summary of Library Happenings, plus links

So, best beloveds, here’s where we’re at:

  • Cutting hours.  Hopefully one morning a week at the main library.
  • Laying off more than zero but less than four people.
  • Cutting programs, in order to hold off further cuts to hours.
  • We need to know more about how much exactly is/will be coming in for PILOT.

Also, on the head librarian front:

  • They’re going to be accepting applications for the next month.
  • They’re hoping to interview and make an offer by the beginning of July.
  • They’re hoping a new head librarian will be in place in August.

Considering what is going on at the BPL, we’re not in horrible straits.

And now for some library- and reading-related links:

For those of you who lust after branch libraries, prepare to drool.

For the younger readers, a really nice site on how to do research, and a video from one of the geniuses of children’s books, Tomi Ungerer.

Why Great Books aren’t the answer.  And why you may want to have a moratorium on book-buying.

Day jobs of famous writers, including two of my favorites at the very top.

For those of you who love bookmobiles, Alec Baldwin now owns one.

The best video about reading this year.

I always had a lot of respect for Danielle Steel (I do not joke) and this just proved that I’ve been right about her.

Something like this could have saved me from picking up two shelves’ worth of books from the floor of my son’s room.  Seriously.

The African Writers Series has always been, along with books published by Charles Tuttle, a way for me to read works from places I will likely never visit.  (Though, weirdly enough, AWS didn’t publish my favorite work of South African fiction.)  Here’s an interesting critique of the ‘new’ AWS.  (You should also read I Do Not Come to You by Chance if you’re interested in Nigeria.  It’s really good.)

Dictator litEvil thrift storesBest translated books.

And — if you can stand one more book recommendation — if you haven’t ever read The Day I Became an Autodidact, or if you know a bookish young adult in need of a kindred spirit, or if you want a Diane Ravitch quote from twenty years ago, get a taste of the book here and then read the whole thing.  Totally awesome.

Liveblog: Library Board Meeting

(sorry — not here from the beginning; we’re discussing funding cuts)

5.35: Penny Johnson: recommendations to City Management.  Programming is something all staff do, but not all (in response to Susan Gately asking about programming impacts).

Ed T.: are there funds specifically for youth that could be matched by companies?

Penny: example is Victoria Trachtenberg fund; question about whether there’s funding for the people to do the work.  Programming that takes preparation time is something we would not be able to do and maintain the hours we have now.

Ed T.: why can’t we get staff funding via matching funds?

Jabian Gutierrez: how many hours will be reduced?

Penny: there will be some layoffs.  It’s not going to be four layoffs, but it will be some (= less than four).  Until she knows from City Hall, she won’t have exact figures.

Jabian: what hours would be reduced?

5:42: Penny: This is the two-shift issue.  My assumption would be closing another morning.  Right now, only open two 12-hour days at main library.  So, one of those twelve-hour days would be made a one-shift schedule (perhaps 12:30-9:00)

Jabian: would there be a way to identify some of our most popular programs and keep them?

5.43: Penny: Anne Hrobsky has been working the closest on scheduling.  It is hard to quantify; she believes they are stretching to keep the hours we have now.  It means that people whose jobs are not to work public service desks are working them.   We understand that that’s life, but normally a cataloguer should work 40 hours a week on cataloguing, not at a public service desk.  That work doesn’t go away if they’re sick or on vacation (or working a public service desk).  Talking Book staff who are working from state funds…

5:47: Not only are we looking at how we’re going to manage this, but we’re looking at different scheduling options.  For example, we’re doing more book-purchasing packages (not depending on a professional librarian here, but on someone who says “all libraries are buying this, so you should”).  They’re stretched so thin right now that something has to give, and it’s either hours or programming.  We’re also looking at new ways to achieve our work; for instance, people are not using the self-checkout desks.  [Note from Nicole: I taught a few people how to use them on Saturday]

5:48: Doreen discusses helping someone on a different floor (first versus second) because there were not enough people to help him on that floor.  She has a couple of emails that were directed to her as head of reference that should have been answered quicker.  It’s not totally visible, but at some point you have to say “These are our standards, these are what we have to keep.”  We’re not really sure how to implement this.  We put in for an application for an iPhone, so that someone can answer the phone as well as answering live patrons.  It’s not the best, because we used to have a dedicated person just for the phone, but at least we can help people. 

5:50: Penny is also worried about staff and morale.  Staff will be disappointed if they don’t do the things they love the most, but we have to explain the situation to them.

5:52: It’s not like we’re going to say “we’re going to close two hours and do two programs.”

Comment from Gerri (staff member): since 2003, we’ve cut seven positions, so we have to use technology to automate ordering, purchasing.  Discussion of staffing shortages, and how the backroom staff are stretched. 

5:53: Penny: when I came, there were four professional librarians doing cataloguing; now there’s one.  Some of that has been resolved by automation, but you can’t go lower than one.

5:54: Judy: what about state requirement for hours?

Penny: we will have the number of unique hours required (63) because of FPBL on Mondays.  If we don’t have 63 hours, we’d need a waiver.  We’ll also need a waiver for the municipal appropriation requirement.  For the hours, we’d receive a reduction in state funds.  Regional money is gone.  State aid is down.  It’s not just city money we’re looking at, but other sources of funding.  Waiver on hours would impact the money we receive from the state. 

Judy: what about PILOT money?

Penny: Wendy has been trying to get an answer from the budget office, and we don’t have an answer on how this is used.  When I spoke with Christina Andreoli, they weren’t having a lot of success going beyond the WPI money.  I think we have it, it’s up to us to decide what we want to do with it.  Not sure whether we’ll see additional money.

5:58: Paul Mullan: I wish to not be redundant, but would like to speak in favor of reduced hours.  Doesn’t see the reduced hours as equivalent to reducing programming.  He sees programming as extras; if we can’t keep the library here, then we aren’t providing what we say is the most important thing: letting people take advantage of the resources we have.  By being open by as much as we can…; if there’s resources allocated to programming, he thinks city hall would think that was an extra.  The Foundation doesn’t like to give us money just to keep doors open if we’re not also cutting programming.  Going against a promise we made to them. 

6:02: Jyoti Datta: do you think the figure includes the PILOT money?

Penny: I think so, but it’s unclear, and we need to ask the city manager directly, which I will do tomorrow when I discuss with them.  She will get that information and covey it to the group. 

If we tell the public that we’re closing for certain hours, it’s a greater impact than cutting programming.  When we closed on Mondays, there were people I expected to complain, but people said, “I understand that we have to cut back because it’s tough times.”  It’s not an easy answer, but if we cut programming and not hours, we need to communicate that we’re offering as many hours as possible to provide services and resources from staff.

6:06: When will Council hearings been?  Penny believes the manager will sign on budget by end of the week, then it will be packaged and sent to the council for hearings.

When you looked at this with Lucy, they said 10%, now they’re saying 3%. 

Bill Coleman: The community feels beat up on.  The neighborhoods feel beat up on.  When they closed branch libraries, everyone promised [that they’d be brought back] and nothing happened.  They need to hear from higher voices that this is important.  The city manager was on Jim Polito talking about the focus on public services.  Before Friday, we should call Polito, Blute, Levy, Stolz, and have a rallying call [from the library board members] before the city manager announces his budget.

As he came down here, he ran into Paul Cellucci [Nicole saw this as she walked in] who was talking in the Saxe Room.  Each one of us has a strong voice, get on the radio.

Kevin Dowd: I think that recommendation is an important one to be a board with a voice.  Can we give Penny some direction?

Penny: Given the information we have currently, the option that we should be following is to maintain the hours.  Bill Coleman motions to direct Penny in this way; Judy seconds.

All in favor.

6:15: Donna, Regional Legislative Affairs Committee report: On March 30, two sessions in which councilors came to sessions with one-hour tour of some major pieces.   (First session: Councilor Lukes & Smith, second: Petty, Toomey, Eddy, Rushton); hopefully they’ll remember as they have budget discussions.  Drafting a letter to thank them for coming.  Recommendation to Bill Coleman: also, to T&G to thank the councilors (not by name) for coming.

[Nicole: I wish they’d recorded this tour for Youtube; it also reminds me that I should do a short video on how to use those self-service machines and showing the kids’ touch-screen computers.  Also, why is the WiFi in the library 100% easier to use than that at city hall?]

Judy: discussion of minutes for Thursday, April 8

6: 23: Kevin: directing people to the ante-penultimate page of the committee on staffing.  We’re happy with the process in place.  We’ve already begun advertising for position.  Deadline for decision is May 7, and then a week later they will discuss candidates who are fully qualified.  Hope to make job offer by July 2 at the latest and have person in position by August 2.  Judy’s already received a first application and passed it on to Denise.

6:24: Terry Dorsey: report of the Friends: bylaws are being rewritten for the Friends group.  The board voted to give $500 to Paul Reynolds for all the work he does.  The Internet sales last month were over $900 (due to one $600 book to Brazil and a $200 book).  Due to staffing issues, Alice has been working many hours and they do have a form of security in there.  Since a staffing change in the bookstore, averaging $100-200 in sales a day.  Yearly meeting on Sunday at 2pm.  Best Friend of the Friends this year is [redacted because it’s a surprise].  As an aside, the refreshments at the meeting with be from Worcester Tech, so they will be awesome.

6:28: Judy: Foundation Report.   Retreat last week was a fruitful meeting, run by Peter Pearson run by St. Paul library Foundation.  He outlined principles of good foundations, which will be good checkpoints for us to examine.  Discussions of different kinds of funding.  His board in St. Paul has 49 individuals; we should be recruiting like crazy, for people with influence and/or affluence.  They have huge events in St. Paul.  This helped solidify the relationship between the library board and the library foundation board.

6:33: Kevin: Bob Nolan and Alice Welch will be part of ad hoc committee in search for new librarian, to bring in foundation and friends.

Terry: reporting on trustee symposium.  Very similar to retreat from last January.  Thought the speaker was wonderful. 

6:35: Bill Coleman: on advocacy: perhaps we can ask people around the city what they read and put something up with pictures in the entranceway.  [Nicole: right now, I’m reading Joyce Maynard’s memoir At Home in the World; Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann; War and Peace; and a book about the Pythagorean theoremin case you’re interested]

Bill gives out the number for WTAG; Denise warns that her phone number is one off and she gets a lot of calls for ‘TAG.

Tara & Kevin recommend a simpler working like “Smoking Area — Thank you for your cooperation” for the sign in front.

Bill presents Penny a flashlight that doesn’t require batteries.  So that she can lead people out.

Question about getting the torn banner; the gentleman doesn’t have a PO, and he hasn’t heard back.  He’ll keep following up.

…and we’re done.

Board and Commissions Vacancies

First, can I say how much I’ve been appreciating the City Hall Notebook and the City Council Archives?

Now, for the real post…

The Citizen Advisory Council will be meeting tomorrow to discuss applicants for the vacancies on city boards and commissions.  They’ve announced that they’ll be meeting four times this year (April 14, 2010, June 30, 2010, September 29, 2010, and December 15, 2010) so if you’re interested, get your resume in NOW.

They’ve changed the format of the vacancy announcement somewhat, and I can’t say that I’m pleased.  It used to be more obvious how many vacancies there were for a board, and which districts or neighborhoods the applicants needed to be from.  (Some boards need representation from every district, or need voting members from certain neighborhoods.  I have a separate question about whether the “unenrolled” member of the Election Commission can be a member of a third party, because that seems a bit exclusionary to those of us who are neither D nor R nor U.  Those of you who know can email me.)

As some of you know, I was recently appointed to an advisory board, which shall remain nameless, so for those of you who are interested in the process, here’s how it worked for me:

1) I submitted my resume and a cover letter that indicated my first and second choices for boards.  I got an email back indicating when and where the Citizen Advisory Council meeting would be, and that I would not be considered for my first choice because there were not enough applicants.

2) I came to the Citizen Advisory Council meeting with other applicants for various boards & commissions, and each of us spoke to the members of the CAC for a few minutes about why we wanted to serve.  It was very painless and the CAC members were very friendly.

Normally, the CAC votes on whether or not to refer each applicant to the city manager’s office at the meeting you attend, but because there was not a quorum at my meeting, it was discussed the following week and I was referred to the city manager’s office.

3) It took a while for the manager’s office to contact me for an interview, but it finally happened.  My interview was with a member of the city manager’s office, someone from HR, and someone who works in the area on which my board advises.  Again, it was pretty quick and easy.  And we laughed a lot.

4) I got contacted a few weeks later that I was going to be referred to the City Council for appointment.  I came to the Council meeting, got a big packet of information on the state open meetings law and the way boards work, and they voted me in.  I also ran into Kevin Ksen and took some pictures of people being honored by the Council for him, and the city manager staff person did not seem terribly pleased that I was a bloggah; so, in other words, I might not get re-appointed.  But here I am, for now.

In short, if you’re interested in serving on a board or commission, now is your chance.  I’d gone with a friend about seven years ago when he applied for a commission, and it was a much more intimidating experience than the one I had a few months ago, so I think the CAC has genuinely tried to make the experience friendlier.