August 22, 1996 in City

Library Staffers Checking Out Starting Monday, Library Will Close For A Week To Save Money And Jobs

By The Spokesman-Review

Library workers hope they can look back in 20 years and say, “Remember when we closed down for a week and everyone had to go without pay to save jobs?”

It’s never happened before, and Spokane’s 110 library employees and managers are promising patrons it will never happen again.

They’re referring to a weeklong furlough starting Monday, when all city libraries lock their doors and every librarian stays home and goes through paycheck withdrawal.

“We didn’t really want to do it,” said Nancy Compau, manager of the downtown library’s Northwest Room. “But we’d all rather keep our jobs and this was the best way to do that.”

Dismal city budget projections put the library in a tough spot last December.

Union leaders put this choice before library workers: Eliminate eight jobs or give up some pay.

The choice was to save jobs. Everyone from janitors to Interim Director Aubrey George agreed not to work 12 days during the year.

For most employees, five of the stay-home days come next week. Another three have already happened - when the libraries shut down on unofficial holidays, such as President’s Day. Each worker will schedule the remaining furlough days.

The move will save about $177,000. The library has a $6.5 million operating budget.

The decision to go without pay was a first for the city of Spokane, according to Budget Manager Ken Stone.

Stone said the library may be the only city department that can shut down for a week without disrupting essential services.

Other departments are squeaking by this year because of savings due to early retirements or severance deals.

The libraries are closing the week before Labor Day because it’s the slowest time of year, George said. They will reopen Sept. 3.

Books due next week don’t have to be returned until the following week.

Not every library worker supports the furlough.

“I know this hasn’t gotten 100 percent approval” by all library staff, George said.

“This forced a lot of staff scrambling to happen while trying to offer the same level of services to our users,” he said. “This has been hard on us, and I don’t plan to let it happen again.”

“I have to give credit to library administration,” said Randy Withrow, union representative for the library workers.

“The administration made sure this went from top to bottom,” he said. “Even the managers like Aubrey have to take 12 days off.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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