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Published: Saturday, 8/29/2009

Toledo library's layoffs likely to be worst ever, official says

BY BRIDGET THARP
AND JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Toledo-Lucas County Public Library layoffs to be announced Tuesday will be by far the worst in the 171-year history of the library, Deputy Director Margaret Danziger said Friday night.

How many of the system's 345 employees will be laid off in the wake of this week's decision to reduce library hours was unknown Friday night, she said.

But the layoffs are expected to affect both of the library's unions as well as its exempt staff as the board cuts $3.1 million out of its personnel budget for 2010. The personnel budget for 2009 was almost $24 million.

Some of those savings could come from employees taking an early retirement incentive, but union leaders are bracing for significant cuts.

"It is the case. It is official. People are going to be laid off," said Harry Johnston, Communications Workers of America library director, who represents circulation clerks and maintenance and custodial workers.

"We don't have any solid numbers yet," said David Lutz, co-president of the local Association of Public Library Employees, which represents librarians. "But there will be less positions."

"I think it is very, very sad," Library Director Clyde Scoles said. "But we have to live within our means."

The layoffs are because of state budget cuts and a reduction in local tax revenue for the library. Library leaders predict total revenue in 2010 at $32.4 million, which would be $7.4 million less than what the library received in 2008.

And this round of layoffs, Mr. Scoles warned, might not be the last in the near future.

"It's a strong possibility," he said about more possible layoffs next year.

Layoffs among unionized staff will be determined by seniority,

Ms. Danziger said.

The librarians' union has 94 members with 83 employed full time and 11 part time. Hourly pay for members starts at $15.34 and goes up to $30.80 for those with a master's degree and at least nine years' experience.

The union representing circulation clerks and other workers has about 160 members on a pay scale ranging from $13.72 to $21.32 per hour.

Among exempt employees, the highest paid is the director, Mr. Scoles. His annual salary is $178,087. Ms. Danziger, the deputy director, is paid $139,249.

Salaries of library branch managers range from $59,000 to $97,000. Supervisors are paid $34,000 to $54,000. And many other administrators are paid $47,000 to $100,000 a year.

Cuts among exempt staff will be announced after layoffs in the unions, Ms. Danziger said. The union contracts require a 30-day notice of layoffs among their members.

Public service positions are likely to see the most cuts with the reduction in hours, Ms. Danziger said.

The library board voted 6-0 on Wednesday to slice branch hours to about eight per day and reduce most branches to five days a week. Board member Randy Clay was absent.

The reduced hours are effective Oct. 4.

Library leaders have not considered requiring employees to take unpaid days off, Ms. Danziger said, but both unions have been asked to consider forgoing previously approved pay increases.

The library this summer laid off about 60 pages, who shelve books part-time and are not represented by a union.

But the last time the library laid off librarians was in the mid 1970s, Ms. Danziger said, adding that she did not know of any other similar layoffs since the library was organized in 1838.

At least 33 employees are eligible for the library's retirement incentive and they have until Nov. 30 to consider it. But Ms. Danziger said few are expected to take it.

Employees who have at least 30 years' experience are being offered 100 percent of their unused sick leave instead of the usual 48 percent upon retirement.

Employees accrue four hours of sick leave for every 75 hours they work.

Library leaders have not considered asking voters for an additional operating levy request in the midst of the worst recession in decades, Ms. Danziger said.

"We don't believe this would be a good time at all," she said. "We'll tighten our belts the way everyone else is doing."

Library employees are, of course, quite concerned.

"This has really hit us hard and it's hit the staff hard," Ms. Danziger said.

"They understand. But sure, the rumor mill is running."

How hard the cuts in hours and staff will be on the public using the library is unknown.

Library leaders estimate almost 4 million visits were made to the library in 2008.

"We are afraid our statistics will drop," Ms. Danziger said, but she added that no estimates were given to the board. "It's a wait-and-see."

Mr. Scoles said he was optimistic - even passionate - in his hopes that library patrons will adjust their schedules to the library's reduced hours and that the number of visits would not drop, even though he admitted that it's logical that they would.

"My pain in all of this is we still want the libraries to be used," he said.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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