To Library Employees #1 – 192

From: Someone whose been around the block a few times.

Today is my birthday and without revealing my age I can say that I have been working for MDPLS for nearly one third of my life. Like many others, I came to librarianship as a third career. I know there are some who have been here for half their lives and more. I’m not here to tell you that things will get better because I don’t know that they will. I’m not here to give you some profound advice because I don’t have any. I’m only here to tell you that, while I may not get laid off, I feel the pain too.

 

The anger and the hurt that I am experiencing is because of what is happening to all of us and this library system. I can’t possibly know all of you but I know some of you and have heard of most of you, I may have even hired you or promoted you. Some of you I have known for years and quietly watched you grow into passionate, caring professionals. I know a young lady who started as a page in a tiny store front with just me and two other staff members who has gone on to become first a library assistant, then an intern/trainee and now a fully degreed librarian – married to another past intern/trainee with two children of their own. I know a young man who promoted from a page/shelver directly to Library Assistant 2 then Library Assistant 3 and very quickly to Circulation Services Supervisor. A young man who impressed me so much with his attitude, kindness, and hard-work ethic I was moved to tell a colleague that if I had a son I would want him to be just like that.

 

I know of at least two people who are likely to be laid off for the second time in as many years. I can’t wrap my head around that. It seems impossible to me that we haven’t been able to improve our situation in the last two years yet not only have we not improved but we’ve gotten worse. In 2011 we lost about 250 people, part-time and full-time included. We cut hours and committed managers and other staff to doing double and triple duty; going from branch to branch just to keep the doors open. We have gone above and beyond the five-star commitment to make those first cuts seem harmless but they have been far from that. Now we are cutting even deeper. It’s no longer possible to keep faking it. Make no mistake about it, this library system is being dismantled. Keep the footprint and destroy the organization that built that footprint. That’s what our mayor and commissioners are telling us to do. We will not have 49 libraries or homework centers or technology centers; we will have 49 shells. Hollow, empty, and lifeless shells.

 

I am saddened beyond measure at what we are losing. Staff who so love this library system that they took a chance a second time to come back after being laid off only to be slapped in the face with another pending layoff. Staff who worked full-time while attending library school, sacrificing time with their families and spending thousands of dollars to get a piece of paper that some hold worthless. The future of MDPLS lies with all of you – the young and not so young, newly degreed librarians as well as others who came to us from elsewhere. Unfortunately, that future looks very bleak right now. We are losing our best and brightest, the most passionate and driven, the up and coming; and it is those who we need the most.

 

On my résumé I call myself a librarian, coach and mentor. I have a problem with this now. How do you mentor someone who is getting laid off – again? How do you coach people through this without losing your own mind? I wish I knew. I think our political “leadership” is broken. The mayor has a broken ideology that libraries and their staff don’t matter. The commissioners that don’t value us are broken. This community is broken. And worst of all, if this plan goes through as expected, this library system is broken beyond repair.

Just like our hearts.

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