February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teen Services Positions at Risk at Broward County Library

Broward County (FL) Library (BCL) is set to change the designation of a number of teen librarian positions, a potential cost-cutting measure the public library system hopes will actually add services to all patrons, as BCL looks to increase hours.

However, the proposed shift—which does not have an implementation date as of yet—is concerning to some who believe the move could negatively impact teen programming.

BCL_oranges2“The reality is we’re having a reduction in the number of positions specially designated as youth services,” says Rita Lipof, branch manager of BCL’s Pembroke Pines/Walter C. Young Resource Center. “The youth librarians plan youth programs and summer programming. This will have an immediate and long-term effect on services we have with our customers.”

BCL’s librarians are tiered by job title and responsibilities. At issue are some youth services designations. These will potentially be replaced with more general roles, such as assistant library branch manager, says Laura Connors, BCL assistant director, who adds that doing so will give branches coverage for extra hours.

BCL has 40 locations in its system, according to its website. Proposed new organizational charts reflect changes at 36 branches, with just seven, down from 32, having designated “youth services” positions.

For example, according to BCL’s current organizational charts, and new ones reflecting the proposed changes dated September 25, 2015, Hallandale Beach branch would actually gain a position with the new arrangement. Still, a Librarian 1 youth services position (currently vacant) would be cut, eliminating titled youth services spots at the branch. (New classification titles and job descriptions are also due in 2016.)

At the Sunrise Dan Pearl branch, a current youth services position (also currently vacant) would be filled as an Assistant Library Branch Manager – Information Services. None of Sunrise’s proposed 14 positions would be dedicated specifically to teen programming. The Pembroke Pines branch would actually gain three positions—two of which are library aides—but lose a youth services position, also leaving this branch without a staff position focused specifically on teens.

However, South Regional branch, which now has two youth services designated spots, would actually be gaining three new positions with youth services in their title, bringing teen services  staff up to five.

BCL has stood out among its peers for services to teen patrons, winning the Florida Library Association (FLA) “Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award for Teen Programming” this year, along with FLA “Library of the Year” honors. FLA took particular notice of the BCL’s “Show Us Your Bookcase” contest where students took photographs of themselves covering or changing part of themselves with just a book cover.

“[The contest] made the teens go beyond the story in the book and take their inquiry to another level,” says FLA executive director Martina Brawer. “I think it’s pretty innovative to involve teens in this way. It made libraries and reading cool.”

Florida’s public libraries suffered a $5 million cut in funding from 2014 to 2015 from state coffers, with BCL’s portion alone measuring approximately $544,000, according to FLA’s Brawer. BCL has also promised to increase hours the branches will be open to the public, based on a proposed budget increase announced this past June. But that increase in funding never came, says Connors. The library system was still tasked with opening the libraries 48 hours, six days a week, she says.

“So that’s the driving force,” Connors says of the proposed cuts. “I didn’t get extra positions from the budget.”

But Connors maintains that teen programming is not going away. BCL is working with high school teens identified as at-risk by their school advisors in a program partially funded by an IMLS grant, she says. And teens remain “as one of our prime services.”

Yet Lipof, a former youth services librarian herself with BCL, remains concerned.

“Their thought is by making everyone a generalist it’s going to be this great efficiency and we’ll be able to more,” she says. “I feel that if youth services is important work, that people should have that designation.”

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  1. Oh yes, library math: “Their thought is by making everyone a generalist it’s going to be this great efficiency and we’ll be able to more,” she says.

    Right up there with those two canards from last decade: “work smarter, not harder!!” and multitasking as a positive thing.

  2. Another Librarian with a brain says:

    Shame on you SLJ for publishing one disgruntled librarian’s frame of reference. Most of the YS Librarians at BCL know that their positions are not at risk and they don’t need the twisted likes of Rita Lipof to communicate a voice and pint of view that they do not share. For this article to be impactful and have any measure of creditability you should have exercised journalists task to interview and quote actual current YS Librarians and even at least one adult librarian who will be affected by service model changes

    Has SLJ been able to confirm the allegation that their is an official county approved reduction in force?

    How exactly will the new service model put youth services positions at risk?

    1. Who is this Rita Lipof and what did she actually do to contribute to the recent major awards in 2015?
    2. Why does it matter that Lipof is concerned? She can’t be the Library Director.
    3. Good thing that Ms Connors does an amazing job at putting out this ridiculous fire that Rita Lipof is trying to start.
    Shame on you SLJ…… Who is the real author of this article?

    • Rita Lipof says:

      Shame on SLJ? Shame on anyone that resorts to name calling and anonymous postings. I regularly have Broward County Librarians tell me how glad they are I said something at a meeting/spoke out/etc. When I encourage them to speak out they say they can’t because they are worried about making someone angry/consequences. There is no overall Reduction In Force for Broward County Library (BCL) and everyone knows that staff will not end up without jobs. If the new service models go into effect as written, there will be a Reduction In Force of some job classifications at some locations. Some Librarian Is, Librarian IIs, Library Specialist Is, Library Specialist IIs, and Library Aides will be forced to move work locations. I know some staff that are not worried about moving and I know some staff that are very worried about where they will be put. There are also staff like me, supervisors that are concerned they will be losing staff and positions that contribute to their libraries success and are dismayed to see staff being moved against their wishes.
      1. Who is Rita Lipof? I’m someone that doesn’t post anonymously. I’m currently the Branch Manager of the Pembroke Pines Branch Library/Walter C. Young Resource Center. I have worked for BCL since May of 2001. My first job was as a Youth Services Graduate Intern at the library I now manage. I have worked in public service as a Youth Services Librarian I and Librarian II at the BCL locations of Weston, Stirling Road, Sunrise, and the Main Library. I was a Librarian II and Librarian III in the Youth Services Administration where I managed the After-School @ Your Library Program, amongst other things. Immediately prior to my current position I was the Branch Manager of the Riverland Branch Library. I would say I contributed as much as any BCL staff to the library of the year award. For the Show Us Your Bookface award, that was mostly a group of awesome Teen and Youth Services Librarians. Those Teen Librarian IIs will become Youth Services Assistant Section Supervisors and Assistant Branch Managers under the new service model.
      2. Why does it matter if I’m concerned? I think all BCL staff matter, or they should matter. We are the library system. Why can’t I be the director?
      3. How is the belief that Youth Services and Teen Services are important and librarians should be designated as Youth Services Librarian and Teen Librarians to further this work starting a ridiculous fire?

      If I was the author of this article it would have been much longer and I would have included this:
      Total Youth Services and Teen Librarian II positions will go from 26 to 8
      Teen Librarian II positions will go from 7 to 1
      Youth Services Librarian Is and Library Specialist Is will go from 42.5 to 20.5
      Total Teen & YS Librarian and Library Specialist positions will go from 75.5 to 34.5
      Total Branch Youth Services designated librarians will go from 40 to 0

      Anonymous poster you don’t sound like a BCL public service librarian. This sort of personal attack only makes me understand why my fellow librarians are hesitant to be outspoken.

      Rita Lipof

  3. Laura Jenkins says:

    It’s hard for an outsider to judge, but Rita seems to provide a compelling assessment of the impact this change will have on services to youth in Broward County. Brava, Rita, for speaking up for those not-yet-voting, not-yet-taxpaying children and teens. This (also outspoken) Children’s Librarian salutes you!