Outsourcing out: Cuts will keep Nevada County libraries open | SierraSun.com

Outsourcing out: Cuts will keep Nevada County libraries open

John Hart/Sun News ServiceAfter months of demanding Nevada County continue public management of the county's six libraries, residents applaud the unanimous decision Tuesday of the Board of Supervisors to reject a proposal to outsource management to a private firm. The plan approved calls for cuts in hours and staffing.
John Hart | The Union

“The community has spoken,” said Ed Scofield, who voted with fellow Nevada County supervisors Tuesday to keep the management of local libraries local.

Supervisors unanimously opted to meet the systems projected $400,000 deficit from within by slashing hours and librarians, but all six branches will remain open. They had been considering outsourcing management to a Maryland company, which had promised to expand library hours while cutting costs, before residents resoundingly came out against that idea.

“I don’t think I got any e-mails or phone calls that supported contracting out,” said District 3 Supervisor John Spencer.

“There was no mushy non-consensus,” said Board Chairman and District 1 Supervisor Nate Beason about the public’s zeal to block private firm Library Systems and Services from managing the system.

Publisher/Editor Jeff Ackerman of The Union, the Sierra Sun’s sister newspaper in Grass Valley, got a loud ovation from the large crowd gathered at the meeting when he announced the newspaper had received $50,000 in donations over three weeks, sent through the paper-sponsored “Save Our Libraries” fundraiser.

“The response has been phenomenal,² Ackerman said, adding 1,700 envelopes were received after he called on residents to support the six-facility library system.

“This is democracy in action,” said Madelyn Helling, the former county librarian whose name adorns the Nevada City library.

“It’s been a huge effort,” said County Librarian Mary Ann Trygg when it was all over.

Under the plan adopted by supervisors, library hours at the five general libraries will be cut from 160 to 143 per week. The Doris Foley Library for Historical Research in Nevada City will actually expand its hours: doors will be open two days per week instead of the current one.

Trygg’s staff of 21 will be cut by 3.75 full-time-equivalent positions.

“We have to lay off two full-time librarians, and one of the children’s librarians is going to half-time,² Trygg said. An accounting technician will go to half-time from full, but other employees will see reduced hours.

The librarys bargaining unit still has to agree with the cuts, which go into effect April 1, Trygg said.

Library union representative Gary Winegar said he was glad supervisors did not outsource the library, but said the county should have used some of its $19 million in reserve funds to fix the situation.

Supervisors said the reserve designated for the library has almost been exhausted, with Beason noting, “Reserves are for one-time extraordinary purposes,” and not every day operations.

A county suggestion to look at pay cuts went nowhere in earlier discussions, according to Assistant County Executive Officer Laura Matteson.

The possibility of outsourcing library management surfaced last year when supervisors told County Executive Officer Rick Haffey to look at all options for keeping library operations whole in the face of dwindling tax revenues.

Officials also feared a raid on county coffers to balance California’s budget.

Haffey came up with the alternative of letting an outside firm run the library system, but it was met with loud protest across the community from those who feared outsourcing would curtail service.

Library Services CEO Frank Pezzanite said in a statement after the decision that his firm could have expanded hours, kept all employees “and expand vital programming during these difficult times.”

Library Services Vice President Robert Windrow said his firm has pleased the city of Redding with its contract there, which was renewed for three years Monday.

“We wish the county and citizens well,” Windrow said. “If this comes back, we hope the county considers us.”

The plan approved Tuesday would make up $100,000 of the librarys deficit this year out of its $2.5 million budget; in 2010-11, the plan reduces the library budget to $2 million.

It would bring the budget up to $2.3 million by 2014-15 and bring the library reserves from $141,000 to $342,000 by the end of the same year.

Meanwhile, the county continues to look at outsourcing services for other departments, as sales and property taxes dwindle and uncertainties mount over the state budget, Beason said.

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