Pelham Library staff sending a message via social media while working from home in early April. SUPPLIED

Pelham Public Library news from Amy Guilmette, Acting CEO

 

As an acting CEO, you hope you will not have to be involved in difficult decisions that will have a negative effect on your staff. However, these are unique and difficult times and we have some unfortunate news to report.

As of May 4, we will be laying off six of our remaining ten staff at the Pelham Public Library. It was a difficult decision to make, as most of the employees who will be laid off are doing meaningful work from home. Library staff work the majority of their hours off desk, selecting, ordering, receiving and cataloguing new materials, creating, preparing, and scheduling future programs, updating and managing the website and social media, producing marketing materials such as posters and online and print newsletters, ordering, setting up and maintaining computer equipment and software, working on the integrity of the catalogue and the general administrative and bookkeeping aspects of any small business.

However, keeping in mind that both the Library and the Town will have a reduction in revenues during this closure period, the Library Board found it necessary to implement this second round of temporary layoffs to reduce staffing costs while still preserving the employment relationship. We had already temporarily laid off five staff in early April and this next round of layoffs will involve Library staff who are familiar to our regular Library users.

This is not a reflection on the quality of the work that Library staff do, which is exemplary, nor is it a reflection of the nature of the work that they do, which is important. However, due to financial constraints, the Library Board had to make some difficult decisions and set priorities for service while Library staff are not allowed to work in the Library due to COVID-19. The Library Board, under my recommendation, prioritized the following Library services for the public:

This is not a reflection on the quality of the work that Library staff do, which is exemplary

  • Adding to, maintaining, and troubleshooting the Library‚Äôs online resources
  • Creating and renewing Library cards so the public can continue to access electronic materials, and assisting the public with accessing these materials
  • Supporting students/teachers/parents with online materials and guidance for these materials
  • Setting up an interactive online summer reading program
  • Maintaining an online presence by being responsive to community needs, both with the website and through social media
  • Purchasing and preparing PPE for Library staff and creating and updating a recovery plan to reopen the Library

There are also many administrative, financial, and operational aspects that need to continue while the Library is closed.

When the Library reopens, services are likely to return in stages and we will use a staggered approach for having staff members return to work.

For instance, when staff are allowed to work within the building, we will call back some staff and institute curbside pickup as well as a homebound/quarantined delivery service. Then, when we are allowed to open to the public, we will call back more staff but limit Library operating hours and limit the number of people allowed in the building at one time according to government guidelines. Staff will have PPE in place, and we will limit the types of services and materials available based on procedures recommended by Public Health.

When we finally open for full service, we will be able to call back all staff who have been laid off. I sincerely hope this is sooner rather than later, but I also do not want us open too early and create an unsafe work environment or be the cause of a community outbreak.

What Library services will be missing due to these layoffs? The following is not a comprehensive list of services we will be pausing due to the closure but will give you an idea of what to expect:

  • Book / material ordering will stop
  • Cataloguing / processing of new material still being delivered will stop and lead to a backlog
  • Interactive programs with Library staff on YouTube will not be continued
  • Online Library program creation will cease for the layoff period
  • Staff time dedicated to assisting community members in accessing online materials will be reduced and response times will slow down.

All of the Pelham Public Library staff care about Library services and the community they serve. They are anxious to get back to work and to help everyone who needs anything the Library can provide. While we cannot help a lot of you at this moment, we are counting down the days until we are able to return to full service. We miss you and hope this period of closure is successful in flattening the curve.