Preserving jobs and concluding the layoff process

The library announced in July that, due to COVID-19, it would conduct a process to reduce its pre-pandemic staffing model. That service model existed for a time when we could provide in-person services within our small library spaces and out in the community in settings like schools, daycares and retirement homes. 

Our world has changed and so has our work. The library’s priorities focus our work around offering services and resources to meet heightened community needs, safely and within COVID-19 limitations, like supporting home learning for students and families, providing online GED tutoring, offering virtual tech help in languages other than English, and more

As noted in a public update last month, we have worked hard to mitigate the impact of staffing reductions to individual staff members. I can report today that we are nearing the end of this process and no union-represented library personnel will be involuntarily laid off from Multnomah County employment on September 30

Through a collaborative process with AFSCME Local 88 and Multnomah County partners, and by creating new community-focused positions based on the input of library staff, we have greatly reduced the number of affected employees. Our latest information indicates we will be able to retain all but approximately 26 employees at the library. All of these employees will be offered positions within Multnomah County, including working to support the county’s pandemic response efforts. We are working with our County partners to finalize details of those positions.

This creative and collaborative approach to reduce the impacts for library workers has been the library’s goal and expectation throughout the process. 

To reduce the number of total union-represented layoffs, the library eliminated current vacancies (43 positions); offered incentives for voluntary retirement and voluntary layoff (26 positions); and created new permanent and temporary positions that better align with the work we can provide now within COVID-19 limitations (27 positions), which current library staff will fill. 

Pie chart showing ways impact of library workforce reductions reduced

This has been an anguishing and difficult process for everyone at the library. COVID-19 has revealed a unique moment in history; one we have never before experienced and one I hope we never see again after it’s over. As we conclude this difficult stage, all of us at the library will work together to focus on serving and supporting our community as it works to recover from the virus and strive toward a more equitable and just future.

Vailey Oehlke
Director of Libraries