Booth library staff move to different positions, periodicals desk closed

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a series of stories detailing the aftermath of civil service layoffs in areas around Eastern.

 

Booth Library lost eight people during this round of layoffs, causing employees to be moved around to different positions and the periodicals desk to be temporarily closed.

The positions lost were five library assistants, two library specialists and one office support assistant.

The office support assistant was transferred to the Honors College and one of the senior library specialists chose to retire.

Beth Heldebrandt, public relations director for the Booth Library, said people got bumped around the building to make ends meet.

For the time being, the Periodicals desk, where people could check out magazines and journals and faculty members could put items on reserve, is now closed.

These services are all still being done; however now, the circulation desk will handle them.

Allan Lanham, dean of library services, said they temporarily closed the periodicals desk because they are able to accommodate those services with the circulation desk.

Most of what happens at the periodicals and reserve desks can also be done electronically, making it more convenient to close this part of the library for now as opposed to others.

The library had also been considering changing the periodicals desk, as this is not the first time the Booth Library has lost staff members.

In fact, over the past two years, the library has lost more staff than they have in this round of layoffs.

Lanham said because of this, they had been planning to “tighten up” the various public service desks.

Because they lost a number of positions, the Booth Library now has fewer people to work in different places in the building.

Lanham said this has been a major reduction in staff, so the library is stretched to its limits in terms of offering what they usually do.

“In this three-year period of tightening our belts, we have decimated the staff of two of three departments,” Lanham said.

Heldebrandt said they have gotten to the point where they do not have enough bodies to cover all of the desks when they are open.

The library is currently open for 98 hours a week, and Heldebrandt said they did not want to cut hours.

Lanham said they were planning to keep the hours the same until at least the end of the semester, as they always have reduced hours during the summer semester.

Heldebrandt said it was a challenge to keep the same hours, and they were hoping this is not a long-term problem.

Though it was stressful for the first week after layoffs went into effect, Heldebrandt said, it was a bit easier since they went into effect during spring break.

“That gave us time to get people into new positions, figure out what we’re going to do,” Heldebrandt said. “But it was a big headache in scheduling for the people to figure out when and who can cover this desk, who’s gonna work weekends and who’s gonna be here until 1 a.m.”

Heldebrandt said it took a couple of days to figure out when people would be working and who can train and be trained in what duties.

“I think we got everything worked out, we got everything covered,” Heldebrandt said.

While there still may be a “learning curve” for those in new positions, Heldebrandt said they were covering all bases an helping each other out.

Heldebrandt said the student workers were helping out with some of these changes at the library.

“(Lanham) doesn’t want to limit access students have to the library, especially during now and finals week,” Heldebrandt said. “It gets really busy around here.”

To keep the library open for the same number of hours and keep desks open, the periodicals desk had to be closed.

The people who used to work at the periodicals desk are now working in different areas of the library.

Heldebrandt said most of the bumping that occurred happened in the building so it was all just a matter of having new duties and working in new departments.

Lanham said every time the staff is reduced, it is hard because there are less and less options every time.

He said he is not sure whether or not they can continue work over the long haul with such a limited staff for the number of hours they are open and the number of services they provide.

Lanham said it is through “clever staffing” that they are able to be open for 98 hours a week.

Employees in the library have had to take new positions and work different hours than they normally do.

“Someone who used to work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  now may work 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., so if they’re a morning person, they have to change their lifestyle in order to be happy at work,” Lanham said. “You get accustomed to one, and getting pitched in cold turkey makes a major difference.”

Jennifer Dodson, a library assistant at Booth Library, is one of the people who have had to go from a day shift to a night shift.

She said she had been knocked down a position, from library specialist, but she has worked as a library assistant before.

Dodson has experience switching from a night shift to a day shift from when she became a library specialist, and said the switch from a day shift to a night shift is similar.

“Right now it’s just getting used to the different rhythms that your body has,” Dodson said. “I used to be in bed at the same time I’m now at work with four hours to go.”

Dodson she is in the same boat as everybody else in the library and on campus and after the first week, things should start getting easier and easier.

She said she is grateful that she has experience in the position she has now and though being a rank down can feel like a setback she tries to remind herself she is not the only one going through this.

“I think everyone can take time and get hung up on their own personal issues, but I think it’s good to bear in mind that it’s affecting over 200 people, it’s not just me and I am fortunate that I still have a job,” Dodson said.

Because Dodson is in a position she has had before, training for her job has just been a case of refreshing her memory.

“There’s been a lot of support from everyone here, we’ve all had to pitch in,” Dodson said.

Lanham said everyone had the right attitude and is doing the best they can though it may have an impact on people’s feelings on their employment in the long run.

“(The library staff) are having to take on new duties than they have before, just like everyone else on campus,” Heldebrandt said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]