Farmington library trustees plan furlough study sessions

Farmington Community Library trustees will hold an October 19 study session to discuss a controversial furlough after COVID-19 closed buildings.

The meeting is the first of three requested by Director Riti Grover, after new trustee Megan Stryd asked during a Thursday electronic board meeting for “closure” on the issue. The board in April authorized Grover to furlough all but essential staff members; about 80 percent were affected.

Maria Taylor David Delind Johnna Balk Farmington City Council

Contract with Pepper Consulting

Grover said 93 percent of full-time and part-time employees and 41 percent of pages have returned as the library moved through a phased re-opening.

Trustees earlier in the meeting extended a contract with Pepper Consulting. In addition to conducting a community survey, Cynthia Pepper reviewed the library’s staffing structure,  and recommended adding and changing staff positions.

Grover said that once she spoke with Pepper and with department heads, she would see how many people were needed in each department, how quickly staff could be brought back, and whether they would be comfortable extending hours sooner than later.

“A point in our discussions has been mostly the safety and hygiene,” Grover said, explaining that the library needs more people in the facilities department to keep frequently touched surfaces clean. “We have been posting for those (positions) for months… That has kind of tied our hands in terms of increasing the number of services and hours.”

Stuck in a pattern

Librarian Kelley Siegrist, who heads up the Farmington branch, said the problem is more than safety. She said both the adult and children’s services departments in Farmington have one full-time and two part-time employees.

“We are kind of at the limit of where we can be in terms of expanding hours,” she said. “We are stuck in this pattern until staffing levels are decided.”

Board president Jim White said staffing should not prevent restoring services.

“This is what’s causing so much anger in the community… There’s no way that we should be offering limited services because we’re not bringing back staff when we have the power to bring back staff,” he said.

Grover recommended waiting for a conversation with Pepper to avoid duplication of effort. Every time people return, she said, “there is adjustment and tuning to the departments. There is rescheduling of all the tasks and hours in that department.”

After a lengthy discussion, Grover asked for multiple study sessions to discuss:

  • staffing levels when people were furloughed, how, when, and where staff have returned, and the status of people who have been brought back;
  • the staffing level needed to enter the next re-opening phase or extend services and hours within the current phase; and
  • likely job descriptions if staff can be brought in immediately.

The October 19 study session will be held at 6 p.m.

Information technology contract

In other business, trustees also approved hiring a firm retained to review the library’s information technology (IT) systems.

Grover has said the library partnered with Troy-based MBM Technology Solutions “to thoroughly assess our current network and data security, and support our IT needs.” Three IT staff members were placed on leave after a vulnerability assessment showed “critical security and network infrastructure vulnerabilities.”

“At this time, we are not aware of any patron data breach,” Grover said Thursday. “If such were ever to occur or come to our knowledge, a prompt disclosure would be provided. For now, it appears there is nothing to disclose.”

Largent initially asked that the firm be retained “indefinitely,” but trustees approved a 90-day term. In addition Largent, board president Jim White, and finance committee chair Paul Huyck were authorized to approve expenditures beyond $15,000, the limit on Grover’s spending authority.

Trustee Danette Duron-Willner asked for monthly reports about the company’s work to close gaps and address the vulnerabilities.

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