Minneapolis

Hennepin County Library to increase hours of operation, but workers say there’s not enough staff

2021-09-24 21:19:42 –

The Hennepin County Library’s plans to ratchet business hours to pre-pandemic levels this fall are ignited by librarians who say they don’t currently have enough staff to handle their work.

According to internal staff notes, the new time hasn’t been announced yet, but it meets the expected demand from students returning to school and patrons seeking more night time to resume their regular routines. Is aimed at.

However, many librarians, including the leaders of the two unions that represent them, are worried that they may not be able to take on additional responsibilities over time. They say library hours may have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but staff levels weren’t.

“The level of staff is very demanding,” said Ali Fuhrman, president of AFSCME Local 2822, which represents library support staff. “Workloads can’t be managed out of the box. It’s almost impossible to cover the front desk.”

Dozens of librarians gathered outside the East Lake Library in southern Minneapolis on Monday, calling on the Hennepin County Commission to fully fund and staff the library.

“We are all exhausted,” said Nancy Greer, who works at the Eden Prairie Library. “They want to open more time and we don’t have staff …. they want us to do more with less effort and we There is nothing left to give them. “

The new time will take effect in late October, according to library personnel.

“We are preparing to provide a time schedule that better meets the needs of the population, a schedule they enjoyed before the arrival of COVID-19,” librarian Chad Helton told Star Tribune. Said in a written statement.

Six AFSCME locals, covering more than 5,000 county staff, including librarians, are negotiating with Hennepin County over a contract that expires at the end of the year.

They emphasize several issues, including rising living costs, dangerous wages for front-line workers, and increased pandemic vacations.

This summer’s disclosure that Helton, who was hired in 2020, primarily operates the library system from Los Angeles, where he lives, heightened dissatisfaction among library staff.

Helton says he plans to return to Twin Cities as needed and can work equally effectively off the west coast.

Many library staff object to living in Hennepin County and visiting the library on a regular basis, rather than having video meetings.

Helton defended plans to expand library time. “Our schedule is highly staffed and we are confident that we have enough staffing to support the time to resume,” he said.

The Library Union points out a decision by the Hennepin County Commission in July 2020, which had limited services due to a pandemic, to cut the library budget by $ 2.4 million and reduce the number of full-time employees by 66. .. Time and no one was fired.

Over the past 18 months, the number of workers directly servicing county libraries has fallen to 412 on a full-time basis, down 9%.

“Currently, we are already experiencing a decline in service levels and many of us cannot provide virtual programs or one-on-one computer assistance,” said Angel Gardner-Kocher, president of AFSCME Local 2864 on behalf of librarians. Says.

Library spokesman Joshua Yetman said he hopes managers will rehire part-time agents who were discontinued during the pandemic.

Hope and skepticism

When visiting a branch of the Hennepin County Library in half a dozen over the past few weeks, workers emphasized the lack of staff. At the Ridgedale Library, 62 carts were packed with books to put on the shelves. According to library specialist Teresa Burnhill, backlogs can take up to 10 days for a book request from a patron.

At some branches, library staff estimated that one-third of the books on the shelves were incorrectly submitted. They said this reflects the lack of time to organize. According to Burnhill, more than 900 items in the Ridgedale Library were on the missing list, primarily due to improper shelving.

Following the rally on Monday, Helton issued a statement that the library system would be well staffed. He said he attributed approximately 30 vacant library service positions to regular turnovers and transfers and expects those jobs to be filled with new hires.

“Turnovers are not evenly distributed throughout the system. Libraries need the support of staff at all levels to ensure that each region and library can provide a robust time schedule. , A combination of staff recruitment and relocation. “

Union leaders said they were skeptical. According to Farman, the 66 jobs cut by the county committee last year have been added to the 30 vacant seats. “The county can try to use semantics to hide headcount reductions, but it’s actually 96 positions down from pre-pandemic levels,” she said.

Helton said the library staff “promised to be in the right place for change …. After 18 months of limited time and limited service, homework help and pre-pandemic schedule return. I hope you will respond with enthusiasm. “

Some patrons at the East Lake Library this week heard enthusiastic about the plans to extend the time, but also expressed concern to staff.

“I support them,” said protection observer Ellen Gale, 68. “I know how difficult it is to work without enough staff.”

Jerry Lane, 77, a retired director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, was on his way to the library on Thursday.

“Early in my career, I learned to listen carefully to the staff on the service line about how it’s best done,” he said. “Recruit first, then expand time.”

“If they do more time, they should have more staff,” Becky Johnson, 58, said on her way to find the book. “These people have been here throughout the pandemic. They are frontline workers. We would have been crazy without them.”

Randy First • 612-673-4224

Twitter: @randyfurst

Hennepin County Library to increase hours of operation, but workers say there’s not enough staff Source link Hennepin County Library to increase hours of operation, but workers say there’s not enough staff

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