Friday, May 29, 2020

Scapi: CPL employees ask patrons to not come to open library

Last weekend Scapi Magazine ran an article in which it quotes an anonymous Chicago Public Library employee imploring patrons not to come into the library when it reopens.

The plea comes in the form of an unsigned letter circulating on social media (the employee has withheld their name fearing retaliation from management) that states safety concerns are being brushed off, hand sanitizer in the libraries is expired, and the libraries lack enough plexiglass to run the library safely.

This letter comes after previous statements by AFSCME Local 31 in which the union said it had not been consulted in reopening considerations and was caught off guard when Library Commissioner Andrea Telli emailed staff earlier in the month asking them to report to work May 20th.

While Mayor Lauri Lightfoot initially seemed to backtrack on a proposed June 1st reopening after details of Telli's email leaked, Illinois and Cook County are preparing to enter phase 3 of reopening even as the county is seeing one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country -- surpassing even Queens in New York City.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Tribune: Lightfoot contradicts CPL statement, Union responds

Following coverage by Book Riot last week on an email sent to Chicago Public Library employees setting a June 1st reopenning date, Lori Lightfoot, the city's mayor, disputed that any timeline had yet been established for reopenning the library.

The Chicago Tribune has both Lightfoot's response to concerns about the library's reopening as well as a response from AFSCME Local 31, which represents the city's municipal workers.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Guest Post: Call for participation in survey regarding Librarian's Perceptions of Union Participation

Today we have a guest post from Mary-Michelle Moore and Heather Hughes of the University of California, Santa Barbara Library:

You are invited to participate in a survey about the benefits and effects of participating in your library’s union. Your responses will help us better understand how participation in union activity informs your workplace morale and professional identity. This questionnaire should take no more than 30 minutes to complete and will ask about your experience with your library’s union, your participation with the union, and how union participation or non-participation affects your interactions with colleagues and morale.  

We are employing a mixed-methods approach to our research and may want to follow up with individuals to learn more about your experiences. If you are willing to speak with us further, please provide your name and contact information. Names and identifying information will not be associated with individual answers, nor will personal identifying information appear in the final paper. 

We invite you to take the survey if you work as an academic librarian in the United States.  Please feel free to share.  We anticipate collecting responses until June 15th.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Book Riot: Chicago Public Library to rush reopening despite risk to workers and patrons

Chicago Public Libraries, one of the last major public library systems to close amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, sent an email to it's employees on May 14th setting June 1st as its target reopening date with employees expected to report next week Book Riot has reported. Staff members, who had already experienced working in a library system well after they felt comfortable, spent the evening in tears, anger, confusion, and outrage.

In the email from Andrea Telli, Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, announced only vague details about what the library's safety precautions would look like upon the reopening of the library system and did not provide information about what will happen to employees that cannot access childcare or who rely on public transit to get to work that may not be available.

Also not mentioned in the email is how much protective equipment will be provided to staff. Workers are expected to wear cloth face masks and gloves but no information is given about how much PPE will be provided: gloves, for example, must be changed after every interaction in order to guard against cross contamination. Will enough equipment be provided for full time staff working their regular hours or part timers working 20 hours a week at the library?

Further questions continue to circulate around what it means to "limit" computer use or "abbreviate" reference, information, and circulation interactions.

With Illinois not expected to peak in confirmed COVID-19 cases until mid-June and with Chicago passing Queens, NY in terms of total confirmed cases on the same day Telli's email was sent out it is unclear why CPL is making the jump straight to a total reopening so soon.

Library workers deserve a safe, healthy space to work in. Libraries, while serving important functions, are not essential services and employees at libraries should not be used to make up for failures of the government to provide funding for services elsewhere... much less so in the midst of a public health crisis. The decision by the CPL to reopen is a reckless move that is putting unnecessary strain on its employees and will undoubtedly lead to many of them getting sick unnecessarily.

Libraries Gave Us Power: Library workers push back against resiliancy narratives amid pandemic

An important article up on the new blog Libraries Gave Us Power by one of the founders of the #closethelibraries and #protectlibraryworkers movements pushes back against the popular media narrative that all is well in public libraries as boards and management push workers to take on dangerous and unnecessary work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It should go without saying, but libraries should absolutely not be putting their workers on the front lines of this public health crisis unnecessarily. As the above piece points out, library workers know all too well how dealing with the public means dealing with people who will not follow directions, people who intentionally cause problems, and people who get very angry over things beyond the individual worker's control.

Libraries have been used for a long time as a safety net of last resort by a system that has failed ordinary people, library workers -- particularly underpaid front line staff -- should not be offered up as sacrificial lambs because of this system's failures.

May Library Worklife is out

The ALA-APA has published it's May 2020 edition of Library Worklife. It can be found here:

Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day Greetings from ULW blog

Normally, I would want to take International Workers Day, also known as May Day, to wish everyone a happy May Day... and especially on a Friday a happy weekend.

However, this is a very difficult May Day for many people in the world of libraries as many of the most vulnerable members of our field are forced to make difficult decisions or losing jobs and protections after years of service to our institutions. Unfortunately, the future is too uncertain to make any predictions now about what the future may hold, making our work ever more precarious.

So instead, I can offer solidarity and best wishes from afar and encourage those who can to contribute to the HALO fund if you are in a position where you can, follow the #protectlibraryworkers hashtag on social media, and register for the #LIBREV(olution) virtual conference scheduled for next Monday.

We all need each other, even at a distance, more than ever. May you have a safe International Workers Day.

Always in Solidarity,
Union Library Workers Blog