Letter: Save our libraries — again

Graphic by Lori Deaton

People need to be aware of the latest effort by county officials to degrade our library system. According to a Feb. 28 article in the Citizen Times, Buncombe County is eliminating all part-time positions for library staff.

These workers, called pages, are the people who empty the drop-off bins and shelve returned material. Their tasks are described by librarian Ann Schapira as “labor intensive, physically demanding, and requires meticulous focus and attention to detail as well as speed to meet the volume of business in our busier branches.”

Fifty people are losing their jobs. They will be replaced by 13 full-time employees described by Buncombe County Director of Communications Lillian Govus as full-time, customer-facing assistant librarian positions. In other words, their job won’t be to shelve materials, either. It will be no one’s job to shelve. This is comparable to the DOT eliminating positions for all the people with shovels. “Digging? Nah, let the others pick up the slack.”

Also on the chopping block are substitute librarians, who fill in when permanent employees are out. According to Ms. Schapira, “I’m not sure it will even be able to be open five days a week if they really do genuinely get rid of library substitutes because the number of man hours that are needed is much higher than what they are able to compensate regular employees for.”

These changes are being enacted to pay a living wage to the employees they are retaining. Buncombe commissioners have so little regard for libraries and librarians that it’s OK to make our woefully underfunded system worse for both patrons and staff.

What they don’t understand is that we truly love our libraries. They are one of democracy’s greatest triumphs. Librarians are devoted public servants. They deserve much better than the crumbs offered in this disastrous plan. Fifty people, some of whom have worked at the library for decades, are losing their livelihood. Hours will probably be cut, limiting patrons’ access.

We stopped them when they wanted to destroy our branch libraries. I hope we can stop this, too.

— Julia Martin


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