Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Several Anaheim library employees say the city is planning to lay off eight of its 41 full-time library employees — almost one-fifth of the workforce — by as early as the end of this month.
The employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, contend that the $1.1-million library budget reduction will greatly affect the children and teen areas of the city's main library.
Anaheim city officials say that reductions in staff will take place sometime soon but dispute the number of layoffs claimed by the staff. Officials said city hasn't determined the total number of layoffs and is working hard to find other city jobs for the affected workers.
Hours will be reduced for some programs, but no services will be eliminated, officials said.
"The reality is, at this point we have insufficient funds to do what we need to do," said Terry Lowe, community services director for Anaheim. "We believe the plan that we put together best positions us to bounce back" when the time arrives.
Ten library staff members were laid off in April. If the reductions go forward as described by the staffers, the library system would have 33 employees, fewer than half the full-time staff members it had two years ago.
The current round of cuts is part of a larger $2.66-million decrease in the library budget this fiscal year — a 27 percent reduction — which helped balance the $1.46-billion city budget. It is the first time in years that the city has produced a budget that doesn't draw on its general fund reserves, Lowe said.
Every department, including police and fire, had to make cuts, Lowe said.
Several library employees said the latest round of layoffs have hit the staff's morale, and more cuts will add additional strain to an already stressful workload.
"We're losing people we know and love," said one library employee.
"Staff is completely upset, superstressed," said another. "Even as it is now with the amount of staff that we have … it is still extremely stressful."
The staff members said the layoffs will lower the number of computer classes and severely reduce the amount of children's story time and early literature programs at the Central Library.
A library employee explained that middle school-aged children often lose interest in reading, and the special attention teenagers get in the Central Library's teen area is at risk because of the staffing cuts.
Lowe said it's "very, very painful" to deal with people losing their jobs. "That does have an impact on morale," he added, though the "reality is the challenges are here."
Lowe also said the city hasn't determined a final breakdown of affected employees.
The library employees, however, contend that five librarians, two branch managers and a customer service clerk will be cut as well as two vacant positions.
The Anaheim City Council had considered outsourcing library staffing to a private firm but dropped that plan after Lowe determined that keeping library operations with the city would allow more hours for services.
Lowe added that he doesn't expect any further library cuts this fiscal year. "As soon as we take this next action we will be balanced," he said.
But a library staffer said the consequences will be significant.
"The public's going to be shocked" when services are reduced, the staff member said.
You can reach Nick Gerda directly at email@example.com