Library borrowing to pay staff, bills

2011-05-21T14:54:00Z 2011-05-22T19:31:50Z Library borrowing to pay staff, billsBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 21, 2011 2:54 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Library officials are looking at ways to repair their aging facilities and still remain open in the face of a serious shortfall in revenue this year.

Library trustees last week approved a low-interest loan of $481,000 from the Indiana Bond Bank to meet ongoing expenses, but the 2011 budget of $2.6 million could be as much as $1 million in the red by the end of the year.

Hit by state-mandated property tax caps and reduced collection of taxes, the library borrowed $999,478 from the state agency for last year's payroll and other bills. It paid off that loan in January.

Trustees learned last week that the roof over the Main Library on Columbus Drive needs to be replaced, and the building's 30-year-old boiler is leaking. In addition, vandals damaged five air conditioning units at the Robert A. Pastrick branch on Baring Avenue.

Interim Library Director Charles Moore said that by streamlining internal operations, shedding unnecessary outside contracts and launching an aggressive program of preventative maintenance, the library can continue to serve the community.

Trustees approved eliminating redundant library departments and expanded the hours available to part-time workers in advance of this year's popular Summer Reading Program.

"All the supervisors agreed that their biggest issue was staffing," Moore said. "And the most immediate need was in youth services. You want to keep younger readers involved."

Moore said all employees -- himself included -- are available on nights and weekends to ensure the continuity of services.

The library's human resources staff also is working on a comprehensive salary schedule, Moore said, to bring the pay of employees more in line with that of other libraries in the state.

Trustees also discontinued a contract with an outside vendor for maintaining the library's website, canceled a contract for full-page advertisements in a local magazine, and are reviewing a $14,000 bill from the Library Board's former attorney, Carmen Fernandez.

In addition, the board is asking all staff members to provide their high school diplomas and college transcripts to prove they meet state educational requirements for their jobs.

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