Local officials unsure at this point what may happen
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN After 18 months of study, Great River Regional Library (GRRL) has concluded that restructuring branch libraries, including clustering management of branches under one manager where appropriate, will provide improved patron service.
However, things aren’t going to change too much in Delano at least for the time being.
“In the past year, we really haven’t heard much regarding changes, so we’re waiting to hear what this means for us,” said Delano City Administrator Phil Kern.
In 2009, the governing board created a branch restructure committee (BRC) to develop criteria for staffing at all levels within branches, according to GRRL. Branch staff members were elected by peers to serve on the BRC, along with management and board representatives.
Locally, in the summer and fall of 2009, the Delano Friends of the Library organized a “letter a day” campaign where various library patrons wrote one letter per day to the Great River Regional Library Board to inform the board of the importance of the branch librarian in Delano.
“Branch managers are valuable at their location,” commented Delano Friends of the Library President Darcy Sjomeling. “When you start to cluster, that personal one-on-one contact with patrons is lost.”
The GRRL board authorized two pilot projects in 2009, to determine if clustering branches would improve customer service while controlling staffing costs.
Four branches were selected to participate: Eagle Bend, Staples, Kimball, Annandale, according to GRRL. These branches were selected to ensure both the northern rural and southern semi-suburban communities were studied. A branch manager position was open in each of these clusters due to recent retirements.
The BRC met from August 2009 through March 2010 to compile staff feedback regarding staffing levels and review statistical data from all GRRL libraries.
The group developed a staffing calculator to serve as a tool to provide equitable staffing levels in all libraries. Because it uses individual library statistics as a basis, the calculator is responsive to the increasing demand on services throughout the region.
“For Delano, the current staffing is so close to the calculator that Delano is not a priority,” said Sunny Hesse, regional coordinator of human resources for GRRL. “Once they do rise to the top, we will actually be looking at our statistics to re-evaluate where staffing is at, based on current information.”
Hesse said it is going to be a while before any major changes may take place in Delano.
“Clustering is really just an option it’s not an automatic anywhere,” Hesse said. “A lot of criteria would have to be met for it to even be considered. All of our implementation will be dependent on budget.”
Delano Branch Manager Carol Plocher may receive a slight cut in hours, and Delano may also lose several assistant hours, but gain some aide hours. Assistants are able to directly help the patron locate or check out materials, while an aide provides clerical services (check in materials, find materials, shelf and straighten books), but does not assist the patron directly.
The calculator identifies each library task that needs to be performed and assigns that task to the appropriate pay level. The number of times that task needs to be performed determines the amount of staffing needed at each library.
“The calculator allows us to increase our staffing levels without increasing our personnel budget,” said GRRL Director Kirsty Smith. “It will allow us to provide a consistent level of patron service at every location and to be responsive to increasing business at our libraries.”
Branches identified as the starting point for implementation were those that had no library aide hours assigned or had greatly inequitable staffing levels when compared with other GRRL branches.
Library restructuring options looked at
Options for restructuring include increasing or decreasing a position’s scheduled weekly (annualized) hours, accepting voluntary changes from staff, normal attrition changing a position’s weekly schedule of assigned hours, creating geographically shared positions for staff at any staffing level, and layoff or position elimination, according to GRRL.
Back in 2009, all proposals that were presented showed the Delano branch manager position being eliminated, according to an article in the Herald Journal at the time.
“I don’t believe Delano is in line to be clustered right away, but we are in line to be restructured,” Plocher said.
“The ultimate goal of restructuring at GRRL is to assign the right tasks at the right pay level to maximize staffing dollars across the region,” Hesse said. “One result will be processing requests for materials and delivery behind the scenes rather than at the public service desk. This will allow public service staff to provide more focused service to our patrons.”
The final report on the clustering pilot projects states there are direct and indirect benefits for patrons in clustered branch communities, according to GRRL.
Direct benefits include branch assistants and branch managers having more uninterrupted time for customer service.
In addition, having more staff hours allows branch managers to develop a team with greater depth and breadth of expertise in areas of programming, collection management, community outreach, etc.
Indirect patron benefits include increased aide hours allowing faster response time for processing holds, getting materials back on the shelves and available for the next patron, and maintaining an attractive and welcoming library.
Additional aide and branch assistant hours also allow branch managers more time for overseeing program planning and managing the local collections. More attractive hours and compensation for branch managers of small branches, including benefit-eligible positions, and a greater number of hours per position for branch assistants and aides were also cited as benefits.
GRRL is one library system with 32 branch locations across Benton, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd and Wright counties in central Minnesota.
The system provides nearly 1 million books, CDs and DVDs, and more than 250 public computers, to almost 450,000 residents.