Garfield County libraries lay off 8, weigh future
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• Make a tax deductible donation to the Library Foundation, P.O. Box 832, Rifle, CO 81650
• Volunteer at a local library branch
• Sign up to support the libraries through City Market Community Rewards
• Shop local, as 45 percent of the library district revenues come from Garfield County sales tax
A recent decision to lay off eight Garfield County Library District employees, reduce library hours and cut services will result in a balanced budget for the district next year, Executive Director Jesse Henning said.
The discussion now turns to how best to plan for the future and figure out ways to weather the typical boom and bust cycles of the energy industry on which the library and other special districts are often dependent for tax revenues.
“That’s exactly the conversation we have been having in the last few days,” Henning said. “We never want this to happen again, and we have to get creative to ensure that.”
The cuts were announced earlier this week as a result of a 30 percent, or $1.2 million, drop in operating revenues for the library district brought on by a 45 percent downturn in oil and gas activity in recent years.
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Libraries were closed on Tuesday while district officials worked to sort things out and determine how many positions needed to be eliminated.
Henning said eight positions were ultimately cut, resulting in some layoffs, although some of those positions were already vacant. The district employs about 65 people across the six-branch system that includes libraries in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute.
“Since we became aware of the drop in property taxes, we have been on a hiring freeze, so some positions had not been filled,” Henning said.
Two district employees, including New Castle Branch Manager Di Herald, made the decision to voluntarily resign.
“I’ve had a long career in librarianship. It’s my dream job, and I love doing what I do,” Herald told the Post Independent Thursday.
But she said it was a good time for her to step aside and allow some of the “brilliant and talented young people on our staff … to flourish and take our libraries into the future,” she said.
Herald said she and her husband, several years ago, built a completely sustainable, off-grid house in the Glade Park area above the Colorado National Monument, and plan to move there.
“We did that so that if anything happened we could afford to live without a paycheck,” Herald said. “I wasn’t quite ready to retire, but I also want to save jobs for some of these younger people so that libraries will still be around in 20 years.”
Henning also confirmed that Glenwood Springs Branch Manager Sue Schnitzer has decided to leave, effective at the end of next week, to take a manager’s position with a branch library in Memphis, Tennessee.
The separate decisions by Herald and Schnitzer will buy some time for the library district to decide how best to manage its six branch libraries going forward, he said.
“We are looking at rebalancing our staff across the district,” Henning said. That could mean shuffling some employees between branches, and possibly reorganizing the branch manager positions to oversee multiple branches.
Herald had already been serving as interim manager for the Parachute Branch, in addition to her New Castle duties. The busier branches, like Glenwood Springs, may continue to require a full-time manager, Henning said.
Each of the branches was affected by the personnel cuts, including assistant managers and a district-level technical services position.
The decision to reduce hours was tailored to the service demands of each branch, Henning said. For instance, the decision was made for the Parachute branch to cut morning hours but continue to stay open into the evening when it tends to have more users, he said.
The library district is currently collecting feedback from patrons via a community survey that is online at the library district website.
The district’s board of trustees is next scheduled to meet in Glenwood Springs on Jan. 5, when some of the next steps regarding staffing and filling the open branch manager positions will be discussed.
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