Dallas Libraries Forced to Find a New Working Model Amidst Staff Layoffs, Budget Cutbacks

By now you've no doubt read all 624 pages of City Manager Mary Suhm's proposed FY2010-11 budget. Or at least heard: Library branches are losing staffers, which means those who stay will have to do more with less; the downtown outpost's specialty floors will stay dark all but 26 hours a week; and all programming will be grant-funded. All of it.

Hence this Library Journal story today about what the future holds for the Dallas Public Library system, in which interim director Corinne Hill introduces us to what's sure to become the new catchphrase whilst city council members argue over whether or not to raise taxes against the mayor's wishes:

Of the 123 [reduction-in-force] notices sent out (for 112.3 FTE positions), the library will lose mostly pages (76) and office assistants, Hill said, with a few positions she described as paraprofessionals and circulation clerks. But those left will see their job duties blurred, she said.

"The passive model of waiting for the customer to come to you will be replaced by working on the floor with the collections and a 'can I help you?' and 'let me know when you are ready to check out' concept," she said. "I call it the 'Macy's Service Model.' If you aren't helping someone you are working with the product.

"The process and decisions for this new model are vetted with staff at all levels; and, consensus rules -- not majority," she said. "Somehow, knowing that no one is really getting what they want helps us find a service level we can all live with. We still have a lot of work to do this summer, and those staying are looking ahead because we know that our decisions will impact how we come back."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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