The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are hitting Bay Area municipal budgets, and in Contra Costa County that means some cities can expect local libraries to be open less often.
County Librarian Melinda Cervantes told the Board of Supervisors recently that an unspecified number of cities that fund additional library hours beyond the 35 a week the county system provides have said they plan to reduce those extra hours next fiscal year.
“Any layoffs are directly related to these reductions in hours of operations,” Cervantes told the supervisors.
Neither Cervantes nor other county officials said how many layoffs are planned. But a woman who identified herself as chief shop steward for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2700 based in Martinez told the supervisors by phone May 26 that preliminary plans are for 36 library layoffs system wide.
Library spokeswoman Brooke Converse said 10 Contra Costa cities pay for extra open hours. She did not offer further comment on possible layoffs.
At some of those branches, library foundations or other advocacy groups help pay for the extra open hours. But in cities where those extra hours are paid for from that city’s general fund, tough decisions will have to be made as to whether those additional hours will still be paid for, at least in the short term. County library hours staff those city-funded extra open hours.
The city of Lafayette paid approximately $155,000 in 2019-20 for 19 open library hours a week at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, above and beyond the 35 baseline hours. City spokesman Jeffrey Heyman said the city has no plans to cut funding for 2020-2021.
The city of Walnut Creek will have to decide in the next few weeks whether to continue paying for 21 extra hours a week at each of the city’s two libraries. That costs the city about $567,000 a year, said City Manager Dan Buckshi. An initial proposal, yet to be discussed at the city council, would see half of that extra-hours funding cut. In a city facing a $12 million general fund shortfall for 2019-20, “We’re looking at everything” for possible budget savings, Buckshi said.
County Administrator David Twa told the supervisors that any laid-off library workers would likely have the chance to apply for other county jobs, including two positions looking for applicants — eligibility workers for the county’s Employment and Human Services Department, and as “contact tracers” working to find people who have come into contact with confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus patients.