City Restored Position, But Librarian May Be Out of a Job

  • Marta Smith, 62, right, talks with catalogue librarian Christine Scranton, left, at the Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Smith has worked at the library for 29 years and was expected to replace the children's librarian who retired in teh spring, but that job has now been posted for applications. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Frank Ackerman, of Claremont, climbs the steps to the Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. The library, which has four full-time employees has faced possible cuts to staff as the city struggles to cut its budget. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Frank Ackerman, of Claremont, climbs the steps to the Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. The library, which has four full-time employees has faced possible cuts to staff as the city struggles to cut its budget. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Janet Holt, left, and Matt Blanchard, both of Claremont, browse the movies at the Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. The library staff has been threatened with reductions as the city tries to reduce its budget. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Claremont City Librarian Mike Grace, left, talks with librarian Marta Smith, 62, at the Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Smith has worked at the library for 29 years and was expected to replace the children's librarian who retired in teh spring, but that job has now been posted for applications. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Marta Smith, 62, leaves the Fiske Free Library at the end of her shift in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Smith's position may be displaced since the city has posted a job opening for a new children's librarian. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/21/2017 12:17:19 AM
Modified: 6/21/2017 12:31:07 AM

Claremont — After the City Council voted last Wednesday to support a $16.37 million budget that restored a full-time position at the Fiske Free Library that had been eliminated in the city manager’s proposal, longtime library employee Marta Smith assumed her job was safe.

Now it appears her employment with the library could come to an abrupt halt after 29 years.

Two days after the council voted for the budget, a job listing was posted on the city’s website for a children’s librarian with the requirement that candidates have a master’s degree in library/information services, something Smith said she does not have. Though the city human resources department in consultation with City Manager Ryan McNutt made it a requirement for the job, the job description on the city website does not.

“Master’s degree in library/information science from an ALA accredited college or university, and one year related experience; OR; any combination of education, training and experience that provides the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the job,” the job description states in part.

The posting came as a surprise to George Caccavaro, president of the library Board of Trustees.

“The clear understanding (during the budget review) was there would be no layoffs. Not the same number but the same people,” Caccavaro said. “I guess (McNutt) didn’t see it that way.”

Caccavaro said he has been trying to arrange a meeting between the trustees and the city manager, who has agreed to meet, but no date has been set.

In McNutt’s budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, the four full-time positions at the library, including Library Director Michael Grace, Colin Sanborn and Smith, would be cut in half but only one person stood to lose a job because children’s librarian Brenda Tripodes had already retired earlier in the spring. The library also has six part-time employees. The council voted to add $80,000 back in the budget to keep the third position. The job posting lists a salary between $36,600 and $55,700, depending on experience, plus benefits.

McNutt said it was clear early on that the children’s librarian position would be filled.

“This should not come as a surprise to anyone,” he said on Tuesday. “It was made apparent that Brenda was going to retire and we needed a children’s librarian. Numerous times we said we would maintain a children’s librarian.

“I met with the director and it was something we talked about.”

Asked why the job listing requires a master’s degree when the city’s website does not necessarily require one, McNutt said the human resources manager, Bette Shattuck, wrote the job description but later added he consulted with her on it, taking language from similar job descriptions.

McNutt said he did not post the job earlier — even though it was decided a children’s librarian would be hired — because of the uncertainties around how the budget was being developed. The council debated at length the library position. McNutt offered to use about $75,000 in the budget for a business development director, a position that was funded but not filled, for the library slot but a majority of the council wanted to keep both.

Once the applications are reviewed, McNutt said, he would be part of the hiring decision in consultation with the library director, probably some trustees and the human resources director.

Smith said the hiring decisions at the library have always been the director’s call and often are based on experience, “which I have. I have worked in the trenches for 29 years.”

Smith’s employment status was not clear as of Tuesday and McNutt declined to discuss it.

“I’m not going to get into that process in the press. It is a serious personnel decision,” he said.

Nor would he say what may have happened to Sanborn, who has been at the library for more than 30 years, if both positions were cut as McNutt proposed.

How staffing is handled and used depends on the situation, McNutt said when asked why Grace was not given sole authority to decide how to use the staff in his budget.

“It all depends on the situation,” McNutt said. “I have met with the director to talk about a strategic plan and will meet with the director and trustees as part of the normal hiring process that any community goes through.”

Smith and Grace, who did not want to speak on the issue, said the full-time and part-time staff had been sharing the duties of the children’s librarian since Tripodes left and all the programming that she did would continue, especially the summer reading program, which kicks off at 2 p.m. on Friday featuring musician and children’s entertainer, Steve Blunt.

Despite the absence of a full-time children’s librarian, Smith, whose official job title is assistant library director/adult services librarian, said the entire staff is committed to having a strong summer program.

“There is no way we would let it go by the way side,” Smith said.

Smith, who said she earns about $40,000, has been involved in a number of children-related activities, including a monthly craft class and pumpkin painting. She recently wrote a grant and received from NASA “hundreds of pairs” of glasses that children can wear during a solar eclipse this August and has planned a few programs leading up to the eclipse on Aug. 21.

Trustee member Arthur Vidro, who publicly criticized McNutt at the June 14 budget hearing for his printed remarks about the library in the online publication Eticker, said on Tuesday it is unfortunate Smith could lose her job.

“There has been a position advertised for a full-time children’s librarian,” Vidro said. “But at the moment, the budget calls for three full-time librarians and we already have three full-time librarians so if the position is filled it would result in the firing of a well-experienced, hardworking librarian who has done nothing wrong. And that would be a disgrace.”

Allen Damren, one of the city councilors who voted for the budget that restored the library position, said he only understood there would be three full-time librarians, not two as recommended by McNutt. As far as whom those employees are, he said that is something he believes would be worked out between the city manager and library director.

Councilor John Simonds, who said in the last council meeting he would not support a budget without the third library position, thought the vote protected the current staff.

“I was under the impression we would retain that position and there would be no layoffs,” Simonds said on Tuesday. “That was my assumption.”

Smith said if she does lose her job, she will be sorry to leave a dedicated staff that has gone the extra mile by doing things like painting or tearing up carpet or working extra hours whenever needed.

“We love the library. We have a lot of pride in it,” she said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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