Options for temporarily closing library could equal lay-offs

Saturday May 4, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- There is a possibility the Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees may lay off its employees for at least two months while contractors work on the building's renovation.

There are some options of how to deal with the library's day-to-day operation when it closes temporarily later this month and a public meeting is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. at Village Square Booksellers on Monday so trustees can hear how the employees want to handle it.

Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love said Celina Houlne, the library director, has been asked to figure out the costs and savings of each option present those facts Monday. The initial list of four options has been whittled down to two.

Mitchell-Love said both options involving utilizing the Bellows Falls Waypoint Center -- with one renting the facility for all general library services (including books and computers) and the other simply utilizing it to host the library's programs and seminars (as well as the computers). Mitchell-Love said she looks forward to hearing from Houlne and getting the employees' input.

She said there are three full-time employees and seven part-time workers. The chairwoman said each option carries the potential to temporarily lay off any of the library's employees. She said the board of trustees will not know for sure until the facts are presented Monday and she did not know if a vote will be taken then.

"Common sense dictates that when you scale an operation down (some lay-offs are inevitable)," she told the Reformer.

Houlne could no say on Friday which option the employees would prefer.

Sam Maskell, the youth services librarian, said the other two options were to shut down the library, as well as all of its programs and seminars, and reducing the library's collection and moving the employees' activities to the front of the building, where they won't interfere with the renovation.

The option of shutting down the library entirely for two months was unpopular and the other option became impossible once the trustees voted on Wednesday to close the building temporarily. Mitchell-Love said closing the library will save the town money but was unsure of exactly how much.

Maskell said library employees plan to do everything possible to accommodate its patrons, from having home book delivery, to holding programs off site and hosting storytime outside or at daycare facilities. She said she and the other employees just want the renovation to be finished.

"Once it's done it will be wonderful," she said. "But this is really stressful."

Mitchell-Love she hopes the temporary lay-offs affect as few as possible, as she loves and respects each of the employees and the work they do. She said Public Services Librarian Ed Graves will move to the Midwest and his vacancy will not be filled.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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