Magazine article American Libraries

Supervisors Take over S.F. Public Library; Layoffs Coming

Magazine article American Libraries

Supervisors Take over S.F. Public Library; Layoffs Coming

Article excerpt

In response to a mounting fiscal crisis, the San Francisco Public Library has announced that it will cut its staffing - already swamped by increased demand at its new central facility - by some 10%. The move follows a takeover by the city board of supervisors budget committee December 11 that gave oversight of the library's budget to the city controller and budget director.

At the same time that they took control of SFPL's finances, the supervisors voted a $1.6-million supplemental appropriation to the floundering library. That followed a $2.5-million supplement the library received in May. SFPL Community Relations Chief Marcia Schneider stressed to American Libraries that most of the $1.6 million consisted of moneys that would have gone to the library anyway, including Library Foundation funds, fees and fines, and grants.

Despite the supplement, SFPL will still fall $1.3 million short of meeting its $35-million budget for the year. A report (characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle December 11 as "blistering") by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose attributed the deficit to excessive spending on temporary salaries, overtime, and other payroll expenses that have gone toward meeting the influx of patrons.

The steps to reduce the deficit were announced to the Library Commission by Chief Librarian Kenneth Dowlin January 7. The biggest cuts would come from reducing the hours of temporary and part-time employees. In addition, unfunded grant and temporary positions will be eliminated (to be absorbed by the existing permanent staff) effective March 1, as will four management positions. In all, the equivalent of 93 FTEs will be eliminated out of the system's 900 employees, for a total savings of $1.2 million.

After reviewing its programs, the library administration has chosen to place an emphasis on operating hours, the circulation of library materials, children's services, collection development, and general reference. The library's strategic plan states, "The professional staff will see a shift from detailed guidance and assistance to a more general role." The plan raised the possibility of curtailing the Library Express fee-based information service, adult programs, the Telephone Information Program, and online databases. …

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