Neighborhood Watch: Librarian Layoffs Rattle Cleveland Park
The Issue: After the D.C. Public Library announced citywide staff reductions in early June, Cleveland Park residents flocked to their community Listserv last week to gripe about the decision. Residents' anger seems to stem from the seemingly high number of employees dismissed from the Cleveland Park library, specifically. Out of the 40 library employees laid-off across D.C., five worked at the Cleveland Park branch.
The Impact: When coupled with the fact that the branch boasts the highest circulation numbers of all neighborhood libraries in D.C., the decision was bound to be ill-received. "We have indeed been Dewey Decimated," wrote Cleveland Park resident Susie Bennet. Without the part-time employees, Bennet and other residents worry that the library will become understaffed and less useful. "[I] feel that the CP Library is being unfairly targeted by a library administration which seems to believe in process rather than serving the community," Bennet wrote.
The Justification: Library system spokesperson George Williams argued that the lay-offs were necessary. "I would parse it differently," Williams tells City Desk. "The Cleveland Park library actually had more part-time staff than any other neighborhood library. The priority was keeping full-time positions. There were some libraries that lost two, some that lost three, but they didn't have as many part-time staff working."
The lay-offs are only the latest budgetary decision to nip at the heels of D.C. Public Library system. In October 2009, libraries shortened their operating hours, spent less on books, and canceled community programs, such as the Bookmobile, in response to $4.8 million in budget cuts for the 2010 fiscal year. (D.C. Public Library's budget for the 2011 fiscal year shrunk again, less $4.2 million this time around. UPDATE: According to Williams, the 2010 fiscal year budget allocated funded towards "fixed costs such as utilities and telecommunications" in the upcoming fiscal year, which means that the budget cuts amount to $177,000.)
What's Next? Williams tells City Desk that reinforcements are already on their way. Staff members from other libraries are being transferred to the Cleveland Park branch. "We want to ensure that the same level of programming will continue at Cleveland Park," he says.
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