Library staff brings salary concerns forward to GCLD Board

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by Marissa Lorenz
The most recent meeting of the Grand County Library District (GCLD) Board of Trustees saw an impressive showing of staff, present to express concern over the newly-proposed salary schedule.

Six members of staff stood during public comment to, first, read a letter submitted to the Board on behalf of staff and, second, to ask that the Board postpone their vote on adopting the schedule and instead take more time to hear the staff concerns.

The current schedule was implemented by the Board in 2017 with the commitment to review and, potentially, revise it every three years, to keep current with market trends. The proposed schedule is the result of a recent market analysis, looking at similar sized libraries across the state and their average salaries.

Elements of the proposal raised enough concern among staff, however, for 14 staff members to sign a letter, read alternately by branch managers Michelle Grant and Jeanette McQuade. They read, “We respectfully request that the GCLD Board of Trustees not approve the proposed 2020 pay grade scale as drafted,” and “we question the integrity of a model that disproportionally increases the salary ranges for positions at the highest level in the organization. The proposed salary scale favors a few at the top, while most staff will see little or no change in pay. This keeps the majority of GCLD’s employees near salary range minimums, regardless of experience, skills, professional development, performance, and achievements — which serve to further GCLD’s core values and mission.”

“We believe the proposed 2020 pay grade scale perpetuates inequality throughout the organization, creating a greater disparity between its employees based solely on a market analysis that may not reflect current industry trends. (…) Similarly, the job descriptions used as a basis for the market analysis do not accurately represent the current responsibilities and duties of staff. (…) In a year where the district is expected to see a 17 percent increase in revenue, it is unjust that only a few at the top will benefit.”

The letter discussed the District’s compensation philosophy and line The letter discussed the District’s compensation philosophy and line item increases. It then ended with a statement of dedication. “Please know that we all share a passion for libraries and for furthering our library district as a whole. We take pride in connecting people with information and serving our community. Our roles in the district are not just jobs, but a fulfillment of purpose. This is not mindless work that anyone can perform. GCLD staff are positive, driven, dedicated professionals.

The district would be wise to compensate all of its employees fairly.” Library Service Specialists Tess Riley and Gaylen Matzen each used their time in front of the Board to provide specific circumstances that they felt were not addressed in the proposed salary schedule. Riley told how, when she started at GCLD in 2003, each branch had a titled children’s librarian, adult services librarian, and circulation librarian. She recalled how these positions were eliminated in subsequent years, due to financial distress, and that all of those specially skilled jobs now fall under the general title of Library Services Specialist. A position, she stated, was treated as simply a customer service position in recent performance reviews, and for which she’s making less now that she was at an earlier time.

Matzen provided analysis of the proposed schedule itself, saying that four administrative positions would see a 9 to 14 percent salary increase; while branch managers would have no increase; substitutes would stay at $12 an hour, a wage that will become Colorado minimum wage in January 2020; and most employees would only see a 1 to 2 percent rise. To demonstrate the reality of this low rate, she said that, having started at $15 an hour, if she continued to receive 1 percent pay raises each year, after 15 years, she would still not be making $18 an hour. An amount that seems almost like a pay decrease, in face of what she claimed to be a greater than 6 percent employee health insurance increase last year and another 3 percent increase this year.

Sue Luton and Heidi McNitch implored the Board to postpone the vote and to take time to speak with staff further. Merrilyn Hunter, of the Friends of the Library, praised the Grand County librarians and asked the Board to “listen and take seriously” the concerns of staff. And Trustee Darcy Schlichting expressed “shock” at learning that branch managers would receive no pay increase under the new salary, while newly-hired administration, who had accepted positions under the current schedule would see a sudden increase in pay.

After a brief report on library happenings, GCLD Executive Director Polly Gallagher returned to the salary issue, expressing concern that staff had gained access to the proposed schedule through a Trustees’ online folder that she understood to be used for working documents only. Trustee Marcus Davis confirmed that the folder was not for public dissemination of information, as the documents were not finalized and, thus, subject to change.

The Board moved onto other agenda items, just returning to the question of the salary schedule toward the end of the meeting. Gallagher expressed her preference to move forward with the vote so that those employees at the lowest end of the wage scale would see a pay increase. She acknowledged that performance pay was not working as intended, saying, “currently, it’s not getting there.” She expressed that the schedule could be adjusted, potentially in July 2020 or January 2021, once a review of job titles and job responsibilities had been completed, but that adjustments would be done to the average salary, based on “Colorado state average for like libraries.” Though no explanation was given as to whether or not the comparison was for libraries of similar size and/or libraries located in areas with similar cost of living.

Davis reminded those present that the salary schedule had nothing to do with any individual staff member, but was to provide a guideline and offer a “commitment by the Board
to pay fairly and equitably. And to keep [the schedule] relevant, we have to do reevaluations.”

He made a motion to postpone the vote on the salary schedule, in order to give the Finance Committee a chance to meet and make possible adjustments, based on the feedback from the public hearing. The motion was approved and the meeting moved on.

The Board will resume the topic at the next GCLD meeting. Davis indicates the Finance Committee has met and has “worked to address all of the concerns raised.” They will present a new proposal at the December 10 meeting, to be held at the Granby Library, at 5:30 p.m. All regular meetings are open to the public and provide opportunity for public comment.

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