Hawaii Proposes Minimum of Two-Day Closures Each Month
Some board members now say permanent closing plan may be better
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 08/27/2009
- Board previously rejected plan to close five of 51 libraries
- 20 percent budget cut
- Materials budget eliminated
Rather than close five libraries to respond to a 20 percent budget cut, a plan rejected last month by the Hawaii Board of Education, the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) now proposes to maintain service at all 51 libraries but to close all at least two days a month, with all employees on a two-day furlough each month.
Beyond that, State Librarian Richard Burns proposed (PDF) freezing all vacant positions (72 FTE), thus leading to additional emergency closures due to the lack of temporary staff needed to keep some buildings open and to fill in when employees are sick or go on vacation. Also, there is no materials budget.
“With extremely limited and dwindling resources to fund temporary staffing, it will be impossible for the Hawaii State Library System to continue operations at all 51 libraries without negatively affecting our library patrons and public services,” Burns said in a memo. “For the fiscal biennium, we propose planned, temporary closures of selected libraries as the most effective action until the budget situation improves. This will allow for more stability in staff coverage, defined public service hours, and patron convenience and knowledge of reliable library schedules.”
HSPLS already cut $2.98 million by eliminating its book budget and “severely reducing” the budget for temp workers and student hires. Now it has to cut another $2.78 million.
In fact, HSPLS asked the board to consider a four-day furlough calendar in anticipation of additional budget restrictions.
Not all Board of Education members responded favorably to news that smaller libraries were most vulnerable to closing. Burns noted that three libraries could close immediately because they rely on temporary hires to meet the system minimum of two permanent staff and a half-time janitor at each building. Asked about one specific library, Burns told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin he’d try to keep it open.
According to the Honolulu Advertiser, some board members proposed that HSPLS reconsider the plan to close specific branches. "Perhaps we need to go back to the unspeakable, and that is, which libraries should we close?" said Breene Harimoto.
Already, staff emergency leave, illness, and low staffing levels have led to temporary closures of three branches.
Other worries and cuts
Burns also warned of the impact of attrition: “For our employees, the loss of income due to the furlough days and cost increases in their medical premiums may lead to more retirements, which will increase our vacancy count, placing an additional strain on remaining employees and our ability to adequately staff all libraries.”
He also noted that, in cases of intermittent closures “there will be no onsite staff to monitor equipment breakdown, facility maintenance and security & safety concerns such as break-ins, theft, and vandalism.”
HSPLS has already cut supply expenditures by 20 percent and canceled all interisland manager meetings and nonessential training.