Professional Employees Association

October 02, 2014 11:00 ET

Professional Employees Association: Okanagan Regional Library Plans Service and Staff Cuts

KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 2, 2014) - As libraries across Canada begin to celebrate library month, the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) is planning to cut service and staff at branches throughout the region.

In total 12.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions will be reduced across 19 libraries in the Okanagan Region. All of the positions being eliminated are frontline staff; there are no plans to reduce management positions.

Vernon, Kelowna and Salmon Arm branches will be the hardest hit with staffing cuts, even though these are some of the busiest branches in the region. The downtown Kelowna and Salmon Arm branches will also see hours of service reduced.

"We're already struggling to meet all of the community's needs. This will impact our ability to serve members of the public and it will cause us to roll back innovative and engaging programs in our branches," said Barbara Jo May, Librarian and Chair of the Professional Employees Association's (PEA) ORL chapter.

The PEA, who represents professional librarians at the ORL, is concerned that the ORL is planning cuts to librarians when the region already has one of the leanest complements of staff in the province. The ORL has roughly half the number of librarians compared to similar-sized library systems in Greater Victoria and on Vancouver Island. "The ORL is planning to cut staff in some of their busiest branches in the region. It doesn't make sense," said Brett Harper, spokesperson for the PEA. The regional library system is also seeing increased usage for their services.

The PEA is also concerned with the process the ORL Board chose when planning these cuts to service and staff at branches across the region. The board received an initial report on funding inequalities in September 2013; however, they did not seek public consultation when planning for these changes. "The board has run quiet and deep on these proposed changes. There was no mention of these issues at the ORL Board's last strategic planning session, at any public portion of Board meetings, or in any other public forum. The ORL Board has a responsibility to consult with the public on service and staff cutbacks," said Harper.

Libraries in the 21st century have become community hubs that support a wide range of citizens and their needs from assistance with tablet and e-book readers, to helping citizens fill out government forms, to helping parents and caregivers assist their children who have learning challenges.

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