Cuts coming to library

Public feedback may help shape how and what services are provided at Salmon Arm’s library, but not preserve current service levels

Public feedback may help shape how and what services are provided at Salmon Arm’s library, but not preserve current service levels.

The Okanagan Regional Library offered up more information last week on how staffing reductions might be rolled out at the Salmon Arm branch. According to an Oct. 29 news release, the ORL board has set the following weekly reduction target levels: 28 hours of reference librarian time; 16 hours of reference assistance time; 17 hours of circulation assistant time; four hours of student page time.

Salmon Arm head librarian James Laitinen notes each of the above cuts is from an existing position.

“So as those staff retire, leave for another position, etc., those positions will likely not be filled – leaving fewer staff remaining to try and maintain existing services,” says Laitinen.

In addition, the board will be eliminating Sunday hours as of next winter, and may further reduce hours. The release notes that apart from Sunday openings, the above changes will be achieved as a result of attrition, rather than layoffs.

“This could mean that these targets will take a number of years,” states ORL communications manager Michele Rule.

For Laitinen, any loss of staff translates into a reduction of service.

“We want to be as responsive and as timely as we can in terms of helping the public…” says Laitinen. “I think losing staff by – that’s kind of my concern. How quickly are we going to be able to help people?”

The staffing reductions are in response to a 2013 study comparing what local governments were paying for service levels at their respective library branches. The study found some communities like Salmon Arm and Sicamous were receiving more service for less money, while the opposite was happening at other branches. Specifically, Salmon Arm is receiving almost $300,000 more in service than revenue recovered. Subsequently, ORL is attempting to balance service levels across the region.

In addition, ORL has released an online survey (paper copies available at the Salmon Arm branch), giving the public an opportunity to say what services they use and value most.

“We have to make some cuts; there’s no choice,” says Rule. “But we might find out people would rather keep the children’s librarian and cut reference hours like we’ve proposed, or they might have some other ideas how they’d like to see those reductions happen. We’re open to that and willing to listen.”

Laitinen says the surveys have been “flying off the shelf,” and he’s hopeful the results will make the ORL board and administration think twice.

“I have to try and keep an open mind and not think the decision has not already been made.”