Selectmen OK new library position

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BEACON FALLS — The new year will bring a new face to the Beacon Falls Library.

During a special meeting Dec. 20, the Board of Selectmen approved adding a staff member to the library to help cover the times when there was only one person working.

The library currently has three staff members, each of which works 30 hours a week.

This schedule leaves some holes where a librarian is alone for a couple hours a day.

Assistant Librarian Sue Dowdell first raised concerns over the issue to the board in November. Dowdell informed the board that she was worried about the safety of herself and the other two librarians while there was only one person working.

First Selectman Gerard Smith agreed.

“For me it was a safety issue more than it was a library coverage issue. Although I care about the library coverage, my first concern is any one of the three of you being up there alone,” Smith said during the special meeting.

The library staff presented three different options of fixing the problem to the board during the special meeting.

The first option was increasing the hours of the three staff members that are currently working there. The second option was hiring an assistant for 20 hours a week to fill in the times when there was only one person working. The third option was a combination of raising hours and hiring an assistant.

The board was also concerned about what would happen when the librarians were either out on vacation of out sick.

Smith pointed out that, even if the librarians’ hours were raised, there would still be gaps when one of them was out.

Dowdell pointed out that there were also times, such as when one of the librarians was leading a program at the elementary school or out for training, when they would be alone in the library.

“Now that you brought up that subject, scenario one doesn’t even solve our problem,” Smith said. “The only thing that solves this problem in its entirety is another employee.”

Smith said another option to make sure all the hours were covered would be to cut the library’s hours.

“It sounds to me like we have one of two options if we are truly concerned with safety up there. We can either cut the hours or increase the staff,” Smith said.

The board felt, however, that the library should remain open and it would be wiser to hire an assistant to help cover the hours.

The new employee will not be allowed to go over 40 hours per pay period of two weeks. This would give the library staff the flexibility to increase the hours when needed and decrease the hours during slow times.

The board voted to send a request for a transfer of $5,000 from contingency to the library’s staff line item, which would cover the new employee for the remainder of the fiscal year. The board would then incorporate the position into next year’s library budget.

The request will go before the Board of Finance during their next meeting on Jan. 8. If approved, the assistant would be hired following the finance board’s meeting.