Citing Budget Woes, Library Lays Off 10

The Harvard College Library (HCL) system is laying off 10 workers and eliminate several currently vacant positions in an effort to drastically reduce spending, according to a letter sent to library employees last week.

Facing rising costs and nearly flat endowment payouts, the libraries must slash expenditures by $2.3 million in Fiscal Year 2005, according to HCL spokesperson Beth Brainard.

Brainard said HCL has already cut back in non-personnel areas by canceling duplicate periodical subscriptions, reducing hours at Kummel and Cabot Libraries and eliminating Pusey Library’s circulation desk and main entrance. The forthcoming transformation of Hilles Library into a “Quad library” will also save money in the long run, according to Brainard.

But those changes simply could not make up the difference, she said.

“Half of our budget is made up of staff compensation,” Brainard said. “It was almost impossible for us to move forward without doing something there.”

Ten currently filled positions and 8.5 that are now empty will be eliminated on June 30. The workers whose positions will be eliminated were notified last Monday.

These layoffs come in addition to the 22 layoffs workers expected when Hilles is renovated in the summer of 2005.

Timothy Slaughter, one of the ten HCL employees affected by last Monday’s announcement, said the layoffs have jeopardized his family’s long term economic security.

“It’s a very tough job market out there, and I have two children,” he said. “The chances of finding anything at Harvard are very slim, because people aren’t retiring. It’s a really scary time for me.”

Jeff W. Booth, a library worker and a member of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) said the atmosphere among library staff had been tense and frightened as rumors of the impending announcement spread.

“It was a huge stress thing for everybody over here,” said Booth, who works in cataloguing services for Widener Library. “Our salaries are so low, we’re living paycheck to paycheck, most of us. Layoffs have the knockout effect of homelessness.”

Larsen Librarian of Harvard College Nancy M. Cline said the library system had taken as much care as possible to make cuts that would protect the availability of rich library resources for Harvard’s students and faculty.

“Both the elimination of vacant positions and the layoffs that were announced today are, in our opinion, done in a manner that will not jeopardize the collections,” said Cline. “We’ve worked to make these reductions in a way that we should be in a position to rebuild when there’s more of a turnaround in the budget.”

HCL, she explained, is heavily dependent upon endowment, and so the low increases in payout of recent years have meant stresses on the library’s budget.

“We’ve tried to make the choices as carefully as possible, but every choice like this is a painful choice,” she said.

Booth said that the department in which he works is already short of staff.