a bibliophile’s version of heaven…

But is it a staff version of heaven? Read this editorial about the King County Library System in The Seattle Times and read about the 92% no confidence vote in the system’s director Bill Ptacek. Apparently one of his more unpopular decisions was the clustering of library branches, consolidating management and making all branch employees in any cluster potentially available for shifts in any library in the cluster. King County is the largest county in the state, by the way. Staff complain that this is destabilizing and against their union contract. The president of the union that represents the staff, Local 1857, gave this report to the KCLS board about clustering last year. (link goes to Google cache, the site seems to be down). Library Journal has a short follow up on what has been happening since the vote.

7 thoughts on “a bibliophile’s version of heaven…

  1. i enjoyed this summary.

    what do you mean by largest county in the u.s.?

    i think you are trying to get at the fact that there area lot of people living there who use a large number of branches spread out over a pretty big region and that those people use the library a lot.

  2. I mostly mean that it’s populated and spread out so that having to switch between three branches in a big county could mean you’re doing an awful lot of driving, esp if your schedule could change frequently. The director has some good defenses of his decision, but it’s clearly been very unpopular with staff.

  3. I don’t work at KCLS, but in talking with people who do, it seemed to be that one of the reasons the clustering decision was so unpopular is that it was made without much, if any, input from the staff it would be affecting. As I understand it, they didn’t get much warning either, just a peremptory e-mail shortly in advance of this major change, which sent everybody scrambling to re-arrange their schedules and trying to find transportation between branches. A lot of people here bike to work, or take the bus, so it wasn’t a simple matter of just driving to a different branch for them.

  4. I am still looking for clarification – King County is not the largest county in the United States by any measurement I could think of – it is largest, by population, in Washington State.

    It seems to me a major issue is whether or not management violated the union contract. What happened to those 30 greivances? Are they still mediating an agreement?

  5. sorry I had my facts wrong and I corrected it, largest county in the STATE, thanks. According to one of the articles, the union leaders and Ptacek are sitting down to discuss the overall problem. My guess based on reading all the articles is that the grievances led to the vote and now the union has gotten management to come to the table and discuss how to fix the problem. KCLS voice is now back online which is the union’s web page, there is more information about the conflict there but it’s still a little broken which is a shame since this is a hot issue right now. The last article I linked to, the Library Journal article, says this “‘We have grievances we’re working our way through that discuss moderations of the system,’ [local union president Susan Veltfort] said. ‘We’re fine with a cluster, but not if staff has to work in different locations than they were hired at.” She said that staffers wanted Sunday hours filled by those who volunteer for service, rather than being mandated to work on Sundays.'”

  6. Unfortunately the media reports of the vote of no confidence in director, Bill Ptacek have focused on clustering but that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of employee dissatisfaction. Clustering is only the newest of a long series of changes brought about by Mr. Ptacek that were poorly planned and ineptly implemented and is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” as described by union president, Susan Velfort. For many years there had been attempts to organize a union here (i am a 29 year employee at KCLS) but all attempts failed until the past 5 or 6 years when staff morale hit an all time low because of deteriorating working conditions and more importantly, services to the public. Our pleas for labor/management meetings, more employee and public involvement, and consistent, long-term planning rather than “here today, gone tomorrow” programs and polices—all fell on deaf ears. We felt forced to initiate the vote of no confidence to finally get the many problems and poor morale addressed.

  7. 6/25/06
    Not only did Local 1857, representing the professional staff of KCLS, vote no confidence in KCLS Director Bill Ptacek by a very large percentage, 92%, the KCLS patrons across King County and members of the Friends groups gave the Board a letter of no confidence in Ptacek, April 2006. A director would have to be very derelict of duty to garner a no confidence vote from these two groups of people Mr. Ptacek, through serious mismanagement, has lost the trust of employees and public alike. His hip shooting changes, which have no validation, no evaluation or determined need have been effective only in getting employees and the public outraged and seeking his dismissal. He is systematically dismantling what was once a top performing library system and destroying the professional teams that served in the community libraries. He has publicly stated that he is not required to take input from the public or employees. The Board has allowed itself to be isolated from the public and employees. KCLS is a multi million dollar business which is totally mismanaged by the Director. Hence…the no confidence vote of public and staff. His resignation should have been demanded by the Board after receiving such a mandate of the people and employees. PJ Forister, Patron, Renton, Washington
    Unable to attach the Union and Patron letters of no confidence.

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