Farmington library director talks furloughs, staffing

Starting next month, Farmington Community Library employees will have opportunities to apply for jobs created under a new staffing structure.

During a Monday Board of Trustees meeting, Director Riti Grover said that the last employees on a furlough that began in late April will be notified by the week of November 20 about their employment status. Of the library’s pre-COVID employees, 78 have been recalled.

Jon Aldred for Farmington Hills City Council

Original staffing included 30 full-time, 27 part-time, 42 pages, and 62 substitute librarians called to work in temporary and emergency situations. Most of the 21 still on furlough are library pages; 27 full-time staff and 25 part-time staff are back.

No substitute librarians have been engaged since the shutdown. Three Information Technology staffers remain on administrative leave.

Incremental increase in hours

The October 19 study session was intended to provide three new trustees with more information about the furlough and other actions taken since a March 14 COVID-19 shutdown. Farmington and Farmington Hills libraries now operate 32 hours a week with 30-minute visits and appointment-only access to computers and other technology.

After the last board meeting, Grover said, she worked with supervisors, staff leads, and managers to list the number of people and positions needed to open for 52-, 55-, and 68-hour weeks. The incremental increase, she said, would provide time to schedule staff and conduct interviews.

Every staff member, including those on furlough, will be encouraged to apply for the new positions “if it matches their skill set,” Grover explained. Applications will be accepted November 1-14, with shortlisting and interviews November 16-26.

“We will appoint the best-suited candidates and will continue to recall people on furlough as needed, if their skill set matches with the needs,” she said.

Grover said she did not have the power to bring back all furloughed employees at once, noting that the board gave her authority “to bring people back as needed.” Staff members have returned in several waves, with the most recent recalled October 15.

“We hope the recall will continue,” she said. “It was never a pause. We were constantly planning, prepping, executing, fine-tuning, evaluating, and then again prepping, planning, and executing for the next phase.”

Staff structure evolving

Grover said that the staff structure has been evolving through the phases, and two part-timers have been promoted to full-time positions. “There has been a reporting structure that has come up organically and has been working very beautifully to provide all the services, as much as we can.”

The basis of recall waves and phased reopening, Grover said, has been input from staff and trustees, an internal reopening protocol, status of the pandemic, CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and state health guidelines, and “fine tuning the workflows according to the ‘new norm’ after every recall.”

Grover cited comparisons with other Michigan libraries that showed at the end of August, FCL was “pretty much comparable” in terms of services offered. The local libraries are open less hours compared to many, she said, but “we know the reason now, and we are correcting it.”

In order to expand hours, Grover said, the library would need to add: at 52 hours, another six librarians, paraprofessionals, and circulation staffers; at 55 hours, another four people; and at 68 hours, another three.

“I look forward to welcoming the best suited candidates in these positions,” she said. “I want to be able to bring closure to people still on furlough. They will hear from us in the next few weeks.”

This is the first of multiple reports based on the October 19 board meeting. Listen to a recording here: 


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