August 6, 2020
TO THE EDITOR:
On Monday, May 20, 2019, the Carteret County Commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw the Carteret County Libraries from the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library system. The purpose of this letter is to inform local citizens of the repercussions of this decision to our county and, in particular, to Newport Public Library, and to correct the misinformation that is being circulated about this change.
The citizens should know where their money is spent and we do not believe they are at all aware of the financial ramifications of this withdrawal from the CPC regional system. For instance, Newport Library operated with one full-time position and 6 part-time positions. Now several of the positions are full-time with paid benefits. How is this cost effective? The CPC region operated under one director, housed in New Bern, who supervised all 10 branches. Now the new director of the “Carteret County Libraries,” whose salary is approximately $70,000 (or more) per year, re-quires an “Assistant Director” with a salary of $44,351 per year to manage only 5 branches. It appears the commissioners had the wool pulled over their eyes on this one.
A new online catalog system was purchased, (a much less user-friendly one, according to our patrons), and books are now shipped through UPS, rather than one paid courier position delivering to all branches. How is that cost effective?
A new scheduling software was purchased and employees are required to use it to see what hours they work, whereas a simple paper calendar worked just fine for us. How is this cost effective? This withdrawal is costing Carteret County much more than remaining members of a 3-county system. Seems this would have been evident if a cost assessment had been done.
As to how this decision affected the former staff, at Newport Library, out of a staff of seven, none are left; five not able to “re-apply” and two gone through no choice of their own. In effect, we lost our jobs because of the county takeover. Had we stayed with the library after July 1, we were required to reapply and interview for our jobs. (This was justified by telling us that we weren’t “reap-plying for our jobs because our jobs did not exist anymore”.) The positions we held all these years are gone, revised and rewritten in some kind of governmental jargon. We were offered only two options: full-time at 40 hours per week or part-time at “19 hours or less,” with no guarantee of set hours per week and no benefits. (We had been working 24 hours per week, earning sick leave, annual leave and retirement.) For various personal reasons, most of us could only work part-time hours; therefore, full-time was not a feasible choice but less than 19 hours a week was certainly not a livable option either. As those were the only choices, we could not reapply. We were told by the new director that 19 hours would Never be guaranteed; part-time employees would never know how many hours a week would be of-fered to them and would have to travel to work in all five branches.
In essence, we would be reduced to the status of a substitute. This has depersonalized the whole system; there will no longer be a loyalty to one branch and the community it serves.
For those of us who had been with the library 15-20 years or more, this was a no-win situation and totally disregarded our years of service. We had hoped our town council would take us over so we could remain in the region, but they let us go. We then hoped the town council would at least attempt to negotiate arrangements to keep the current staff on, with a guaranteed 19 hours per week and a permanent position at Newport. Had the county offered to help us out, with even a small portion of the funds they give to Webb Library, it would have been a viable option. We made it clear we were willing to take the cut in hours and give up our benefits. That was not offered either, so we are out.
According to various sources, the new Carteret County Libraries system is not user friendly at all. At Newport Public Library, we always maintained close relation-ships with our patrons; we knew what they liked, who was reading what series and what book they needed next. We catered to them on a personal level as a small-town library should; we knew their favorite authors so we knew which books to buy.
The new county procedure is to order books at a central location, no longer on a branch-by-branch basis, so the interests and needs of the patrons are not being honored as they were in the past.
In addition, for our final weeks of employment at Newport Library, we were required to pull hundreds of books off the shelves to be sold online. With a small book budget, we had worked for years to create the collection we had and now it has been decimated. When this procedure was questioned, we were told the county will just “buy a new copy.” An-other cost-effective measure?
Just as the whole system is being devalued, so are the older book titles that never truly age and always become “new” again for each generation. The tale being told by new administration when questioned about this waste of books is that only books that were “damaged or moldy” were weeded out. Those of us who actually pulled the titles know the real truth. The company they were mailed to in order to be sold online does not accept damaged books. The criteria used to remove these titles was antithetical to what a library is supposed to be and the explanations given to justify this book purge are false.
No matter what was stated in a previous article in the Carteret News-Times -- we believe the expression was a “win-win” situation -- the patrons have been adversely affected by this change. For ex-ample, patrons can no longer drop in on a Monday, needing a book from New Bern and have it in their hands the next day through the courier service. The books will come by UPS from all over the state through the NC Cardinal system.
There is now a processing staff hired by Carteret County, another added cost; this staff was formerly housed in New Bern and paid by the region. (Sadly, that staff lost their jobs due to our county pulling out.) The new system de-personalizes patron relationships, making the library a business in-stead of a service and from what we have been told, it is, indeed, a mess.
Carteret County readers must now pay yearly fees to use the Craven-Pamlico Library, unless they are government employees or own property in those counties.
Patrons have been calling former staff at home to voice their unhappiness with the new system.
The county took over July 1, 2020 and they have wasted no time in taking the Newport Library apart. It has been virtually emptied, apparently with the Covid virus being the justification. For years, a handprint quilt made by the children had hung on the wall. It has been removed. Our beloved former mayor, the late Derryl Garner, had a special chair presented to him by the citizens of Newport and dedicated to the children’s library, with the under-standing that it would be located there permanently. It has been removed. Apparently, nothing of the history of this small-town library is of any value to this new organization.
When asked about throwing away all the toys, decorative items, etc. in the children’s room, the answer was “there is plenty of county money, we will just buy new”.
When told a certain book has been checked out 20 times and that it should be kept, the answer was “well, if it was used that much, don’t you deserve a new copy?” Evidently, all of a sudden, Carteret County is rolling in money. If an attempt is made to ruin the beautiful mural painted by late local artist Larry Burge, as has been rumored, we would hope and expect the Newport citizens to be up in arms. What a slap in the face to those who worked so very hard many years ago to create this library.
Perhaps in the future, the county commissioners might make the effort to study all sides of an is-sue, the human factor as well as the financial, before casting their vote. Make no mistake, those of us who love our library will re-member it November 3 when we cast ours.
CONCERNED CITIZENS for NEWPORT LIBRARY