RESPONSES TO ALTERNATIVE REQUEST
The following are responses from Monroe County Public Library Board President Stephen Moberly to questions submitted by The Bloomington Alternative on July 13. The questions are posted on the Alternative Web site.
1. Stipends at MCPL
Stipends were first used at MCPL in 2006 as a pay increase, based on longevity. They were used due to the fact that they did not add to the baseline salaries and that helped to maintain the personnel line in the Operating Budget.
Stipends have since been used, in a limited fashion, to provide incentives for special project work (transitioning the book sale to a book store), to give staff experience and opportunities beyond their normal day-to-day responsibilities (Intern proposal or teaching Spanish language classes), or to accomplish some tasks that have been placed aside because there is not enough manpower to get them done (coordination of public services issues and concerns). The amounts given have been per task and calculated on an estimate of time the project would take to accomplish – above and beyond one’s normal work time.
While the issuance of stipends was thought to be a procedural matter rather than a Policy, Section 3 of the MCPL Personnel Manual was revised and approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2006 to help clarify how and when stipends might be used at MCPL:
The MCPL Board of Trustees sets the minimum and maximum pay rates for all positions annually. These annual pay increases are authorized by the MCPL Board of Trustees as funding is available.
Pay increases may take any form chosen by the MCPL Board of Trustees. Possible types of pay increases include, but are not limited to:
- Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): Approved COLA pay rates become effective at the beginning of the next budget year, unless otherwise indicated.
- Seniority increments are pay increases authorized by the MCPL Board of Trustees annually as funding is available. Seniority increments are not given to employees at the cap of the pay grade. Seniority increments are paid according to employee anniversary month [except for those employees hired into their current positions prior to July 1, 1987]. An upward change in classification changes the anniversary month. All appropriate MCPL documentation must be provided to the Human Resources Department prior to an employee being compensated.
- Stipends: Stipends are pay increases that occur as a one-time payment to staff.
Stipends may also be granted by the Library Director for work above and beyond the employee’s regular job responsibilities and scheduled work time, such as special projects/assignments—i.e., strategic planning process, drafting policies and/or procedures, etc.
No funds are being allocated for stipends in the 2008 proposed Budget.
2. Reclassifications at MCPL
Reclassification is a typical management tool used to realign staff and the organization in a solid foundation, providing clear lines of supervision and equity among workers when it comes to responsibilities and job descriptions. While this has been done at MCPL in the past, it had not been done for several years. The director had waited two years before implementing changes she felt were appropriate. The process used was consistent with previous procedures, except that a form was never found and managers were asked to provide their requests in writing to the director. These were not new positions.
Reclassifications are considered each time a position becomes vacant and before the job is posted. They are also considered annually as part of the yearend review and department/system planning for the coming year. The reclassifications which went into affect in January 2006 were two years in the making as this director purposely wanted time to review staff allocations, departmental organization, work flows, services and the overarching needs before making any.
Pursuant to Section 3 of the MCPL Personnel Manual:
3.9 JOB DESCRIPTIONS/CLASSIFICATIONS
MCPL installed and adopted a job classification system for all MCPL jobs. It is regularly monitored and revised to reflect changes in job duties as they occur.
All MCPL positions have been described in job descriptions and systematically grouped into job classes based on their fundamental similarities.
New job descriptions or any modifications to existing job descriptions shall be approved by the Library Director.
3.10 JOB CLASSIFICATION/PAY SYSTEM MAINTENANCE
Any change in job classification or pay rates must be approved by the Library Director. The Library Director is established to oversee maintenance of the job classification and pay plan. In the event that a department manager wishes to create a new position not currently classified or reorganize jobs within a department, review seniority, abolish a position, or if an employee desires to have a job classification review made of his/her position, MCPL has established the following procedures:
- Secure, complete, and return a Job Classification Review Form from the Human Resources Department.
- Upon completion and return of the Review Form and provision of any other supplemental information, the Library Director will evaluate the requested action.
- The Library Director will make job classification and compensation modifications based on budget restrictions.
Based on staff input and the need for clarity, the attached revisions were suggested but have not been acted on by the Board of Trustees.
All reclassifications which occurred in January 2007 were based on changing job responsibilities to existing positions and to create consistency among pay grade levels in departments. Rationale for each position reclassified has been provided.
3. Collection Services – Temporary Manager
When the manager of the Collection Services Department retired in August of 2006, the library was in the midst of planning the implementation of a new Polaris system. An efficiency study had just been completed related to staffing, improving work flows, etc. for the department.
A decision was made to hold off posting/hiring a new manager until a.) the staff had an opportunity to discuss and put in place some of the changes recommended in the study and b) make the necessary changes required as a part of the new system. After the Collection Services manager retired, the department reported to the associate director, who was in charge of the day-to-day operations with assistance from the highest ranking staff member there. If anyone served as the temporary manager for the department, it was the associate director.
The consultant, Cynthia Cooper, CWC Advisors, Austin, Texas, who conducted the efficiency study had interviewed each staff member regarding their job, developed the most current knowledge of this department, and had become familiar with MCPL in general. As a result of this valuable background information, she was then asked to spend a few weeks each month – October 2006 through January 2007 at MCPL – to assist with the department’s transition to the new system, work alongside staff, and assist with planning the implementation, representing the needs and interests of the department in the process.
This person continues to work with MCPL today on a recataloging project for materials in the genealogy/local history collection at a rate of $40 per hour with a DNE amount of 70 hours per month. This project has been on the back burner for several years that regular staff hasn’t been able to accomplish with their normal work load. Her work is done on-line via her office in Austin, Texas. It does not require her to be in Bloomington but it does require her to communicate regularly with the new manager of the department who facilitates the project from our end.
We have never paid for travel expenses for her visits to Bloomington. These were included in the costs of the efficiency study that was done and were her responsibility for the project work as well.
Knowledge and expertise in this specific area of the library environment – and an understanding of the current technology needed to accomplish the tasks here – are not easy to find today. In fact, when we posted and interviewed for the position of Collection Services Manager a few months back, we ended up hiring someone internally who we thought could manage people first and then learn the skills needed to develop a broad understanding of this department’s function within a library setting – because we couldn’t find anyone that was a perfect fit for both functions.
4. Teen Programming
All funds for programming are provided by the Friends/Foundation and those specific to Teen Programming at MCPL are managed by the Teen Programming Coordinator. In 2007 the resignation of the Teen Programming Coordinator, due to relocation, occurred as well as a request on the part of the Adult Programming Coordinator to be reassigned duties. Other adult services staff have been filling in while the newly created Adult/Teem Programmer position was posted, interviewed and hired. The new person starts July 16.
Documentation for 2005, 2006, and 2007 provided.
5. Employee Morale
My assessment of the state of the work environment at MCPL is this: there is some anxiety because changes have been made. As was the case with previous library directors, some people like changes, some do not, and some are indifferent.
My assessment of the state of staff morale at MCPL is this: Our staff come to work everyday and do an excellent job of assisting and serving the users of the library and the taxpayers of Monroe County. The staff gets the job done, day in and day out, and for that I am very pleased.
6. Friends of the Library – Discretionary Funds
The Director’s contingency fund line in the annual allocation approved by the Friends of the Library Board is used as the catch all for items not specific in the annual request. (There was no line item for this in 2005. The total amount expended in 2006 was $2,537.45 and YTD in 2007 is $1,284.18.)It is typically used for ALA membership, Rotary and Altrusa dues, retirement gatherings for staff ($100 each), MCPL gifts for retirees, working lunches or lunches when candidates are brought in for interviewing, just to name a few. In recent years it has also been used as a way to adjust actual expenditures verses budgeted amounts. (An example would be when the Friends wished to add additional funding for puppet shows. This increase was pulled out of the contingency line rather than submitting another request through the Friends Board.)
Total amount paid to Mary Ellen McCann for training workshops for staff and consulting services – coming from the library’s operating budget as well as the Friends allocation - at MCPL since 2006 is $7,315.
7. Director’s Personal Loan
Pursuant to Indiana Code 5-14-3-4-(b) 8: “The Library can not release information, other than to acknowledge the Library was made aware of the loan by a formal complaint, the Library investigated the complaint, and there was no violation of the Libraries’ policies.”
8. 2007 Budget Planning – Staff Benefits Issue
Personnel costs are constricting the MCPL Budget at a time when more flexibility is needed to be able to better respond to the needs of the public we serve. Nearing 70% of the Library’s operating expenses, the director presented several ideas for consideration in the planning sessions for the 2007 Budget.
While several of them did not have a direct monetary impact to the Library’s budget, over the long-term they could potentially reduce the financial burden created by high payouts due to retiring staff and health insurance obligations associated with them. (Reducing this obligation seemed less painful than laying off personnel.)
The other thought was to provide some incentive to those staff who had enough years of service in to retire but which might be kept from making that decision to the policies currently in place. The initial thought was to actually increase the Library’s obligation to pay health insurance for those 55 and older who were eligible to retire rather than ultimately reducing it. This would have provided those eligible an opportunity to do so and still have their health benefits paid for until they reached the age for Medicare. This would then take their higher salaries off the books, allow the Library to bring in some new people at the entry level – as well as new ideas, energy and enthusiasm - and provide the security of health benefits to the retirees for five additional years.
The issue of the number of sick days one can be paid for upon retiring was also viewed as a financial liability and a change would ultimately help the Library’s financial status long-term. Many – if not most libraries – ended this practice long ago due to the liability it held. Again, the initial proposal was to cut the number of days to 30 (for all staff – full and part-time), rather than the 60 in place. The Board, ultimately vote to keep this benefit for full-time only staff but to reduce it to 30 days.
Finally, the reduction in the number of sick days one can accrue was viewed as a correction of the existing policy. Sick leave accrual was established to help staff transition from sick leave to disability. Eligibility for that occurs in 130 days – not working days. The Library’s policy allowed for an additional 50 days to be accrued which is not necessary – and, again, another financial liability.
9. Director’s Moving Expenses
Initial Board approval was for paying half of the director’s moving expenses – up to $9,000 (MCPL - $9,000), as interpreted by the library’s legal counsel.
Moving expenses were paid for on the Library credit card - as many staff travel expenditures are. It was viewed as the most expeditious way to handle the situation given the distance and multiple expenses that were incurred throughout the 1.5 year process:
Phase 1 – Initial move with limited items to begin work.
Phase 2 – Packing and move to storage once the house in Texas was sold.
Phase 3 – Move from Texas to Indiana once a house was purchased in Indiana.
The director thought payroll deductions were initiated after Phase 2 of her move in March. Once the final phase was completed and the discovery was made that they had not transpired, approval was sought for an extended payback plan.
Legal counsel and the State Board of Accounts recommended that the remaining funds should be paid back by year’s end. That communication was transmitted through then Board President, Pat Steele, and the director paid back the remaining total due on December 22, 2006.
In the director’s opinion, and that of the library’s legal counsel, there was no amount to be reconciled as the total library expenditure for her move was $4,959.10 and up to $9,000 was originally authorized by the Board of Trustees.
10. MCPL Communication
Prior to 2007, the Board of Trustees followed the guidelines in their resource In the Public Trust, which recommended a chain of command philosophy for staff to communicate from the director to the Board. At the Board’s request, staff were funneled through to an administrative staff person (not the director) and then onto the Board. All correspondence from the public that came through the library was handled in a similar manner. The Library Director has always maintained an “open door” policy for employees as well as the public.
In April, the current Board decided to post their personal email address and contact information on the Library’s website. At the same time a Personnel Committee was formed by Board President, Steve Moberly, and these two individuals are to attend the monthly Employee Forums to hear staff concerns and help to develop solutions for them.
The Board of Trustees have met privately with a number of staff members in the last several months. These changes have been well-received and many have thanked us for them.