Group says 16 Farmington Library employees resigned after furlough

Farmington Community Library (FCL) Director Riti Grover said during a Monday Board of Trustees meeting that despite the stresses of a pandemic, the system has not seen an high level of employee turnover.

During her presentation about the Board of Trustees’ April decision to furlough all but essential staff, Grover shared a comparison of turnover from the last four fiscal years:

Maria Taylor Johnna Balk David Delind for Farmington city council
  • 2017-18: 8
  • 2018-19: 9
  • 2019-20:  11
  • 2020-21: 7

“With the once in a lifetime pandemic event and the stress that everyone has gone through during the past six months at various levels in their lives, I think this is not an out of the chart figure,” Grover said.

But Kristy Cooper of The Library Defense Network, which has pushed for the return of all staff, said Grover’s 2020-21 figure reflects the fiscal year, which ended June 30, and does not provide an accurate picture of furlough-related losses. A Library Defense Network spreadsheet shows that since both libraries closed in March due to COVID-19, 16 staff members have resigned from the system.

The group has been tracking departures, the number of staff members who have returned, and those on furlough. (View the spreadsheet on the Restore the Farmington Community Library Facebook page.) Three IT (Information Technology) staff members remain on administrative leave. Among the hardest hit departments have been:

  • Tech Services – 10 staff positions: 4 resignations
  • Farmington Hills Children’s Department – 10 staff positions: 3 resignations, 3 on furlough
  • Farmington Children’s Department – 7 staff positions: 2 resignations, 1 furlough, 1 vacant
  • Computer Techs – 7 staff positions: 3 administrative leave, 2 furlough
  • Outreach – 4 staff positions: 3 furlough, 1 vacant

The list includes 91 “regular” (full-time and part-time) employees, 30 pages, and 53 substitute librarians, who fill in on as as-needed basis. With the 16 resignations and the unexpected death last month of librarian Maureen Baugh, 17 positions remain unfilled. The spreadsheet does not indicate reasons for the departures.

Incremental move toward more hours

Grover said during the meeting that more staff will be needed as the library looks toward more offerings. A phased opening plan has added back services, starting with accepting returns on June 25.

Curbside pick-up service began in early July, and patrons were welcomed back for limited visits on September 8. Earlier this month, the library restored access to computers and is currently open 32 hours a week.

Grover said the library will move back in increments to its pre-COVID 68 hours. Currently, she said, six more librarians and paraprofessionals are needed to take the next step.

All staff members will have the opportunity next month to apply for open positions. Grover said she worked with supervisors, staff leads, and managers to determine the number of people and positions needed to open for 52-, 55-, and 68-hour weeks.

Grover has been working with consultant Cynthia Pepper to re-haul the staffing structure and create several new positions suggested in Pepper Consulting’s Service Module Assessment. However, Grover said Monday that a new structure has emerged organically since the shut down.

In an email, Cooper said that one of the staff’s biggest frustrations has been “the continued claim that staff have informed what’s needed and who gets brought back.” Repeated requests from team leads for the return of specific people and positions, she said, have not been fulfilled.

“Until the board decided to require a greater explanation from Riti regarding the furlough plan, the consensus experience is that there was never a plan outside of using the pandemic as justification for reducing staff,” she said.

Grover emphasized several times during Monday’s meeting that she works with staff leaders in making decisions and trusts them to deal with scheduling and other issues. She said that furloughed staff may be hired for the advertised positions if their skill sets are a match.

Those still on furlough will know by the week of November 20 whether they will be called back, Grover said.

This is one of multiple reports based on the October 19 board meeting. Here’s the first story, which includes a recording of the meeting: FARMINGTON LIBRARY DIRECTOR TALKS FURLOUGHS, STAFFING

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