PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County is moving ahead with a bond this November to build a new library on the east side. At the same time, library leaders are still planning to cut staff in about a month.
If you’ve regularly gone to the library, you know that the doors have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is curbside pickup service, as well as online and phone help still available—but less inside-work for library staff.
The head of the county system believes paid leave doesn’t make sense for dozens of employees for who-knows-how-long, and there is a lack of space inside smaller libraries that would make social distancing difficult.
“School will be going online this fall, and helping students out with those tech needs and book needs, as well as trying to figure out some other ways to really help and respond to the community’s needs,” said Eben Pullman of the Oregon AFSCME Local 88.
Almost 80 layoffs are being considered out of 600 employees, according to library union leaders. However, members may be able to fill vacancies or end up taking the jobs of less senior workers. Staff members have also offered suggestions on how they can work remotely to help patrons.
The union said it supports the bond measure to raise almost $400 million for a new flagship library in east Multnomah County—a measure that will also renovate and expand several existing branches.
One of the big issues in the library staff cutbacks is rethinking what staff can do while the buildings are closed.
KOIN 6 News will have updates on this story later in the day.