[Michlib-l] Positive News from Westland

Kristy Cooper kristycooper1 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 18 13:49:46 EDT 2017

Hi everyone,

I know some of you have been following what happened at Westland with
interest, and I wanted to give you all a quick and happy update. For those
who were unaware, five librarians were suddenly terminated just two days
after turning in union intention papers on March 3rd. They were told their
positions were eliminated to increase "efficiencies" despite the fact that
these librarians were budgeted for in a dedicated 10 year millage that
passed by 71% in 2012. As a former librarian from Westland myself, I
personally made all of the campaign literature at the time, and our message
was definitely about bringing back hours, programming, and staffing after
the economic downturn--not removing professional staff. Westland also has a
$2.5 million budget surplus, so framing these terminations in terms of
"fiscal responsibility" never made sense, especially when you consider that
their new "restructuring plan" meant that they now had significantly less
librarians per capita and per operating budget compared to the majority of
other Class VI libraries in Michigan.

Anyways, several other librarians, along with many Westland community
members, organized and we relentlessly kept up the pressure on the city to
do something about the library's administration. Our efforts paid off, and
on June 12th, it was announced that the rest of the library's board had
resigned, quickly followed by the director. Then, the following day, the
mayor announced that all five of the librarians were offered their jobs
back. Three of them are coming back (one is changing careers and another
already got snatched up by another library because she's awesome).
Currently the library does not have a board, but the mayor is working with
TLN to appoint new board members who will hopefully understand that an
important part of library board membership is also advocating for the
library's services, patrons, and staff, not just budgetary oversight.

As it is, there are currently no professional mechanisms to support
librarians, or libraries in these kinds of situations. Believe me, I sought
them out. We had to experiment with many different methods to finally
figure out what worked before we were able to finally make it clear enough
that the people of Westland would not accept mass librarian removal at
their well-funded library.

If anything like this ever happens at your library, I will be happy to help
you organize the public resistance necessary to prevent or undo threats
like this to your library in the future. Also, let me know if you are
interested in a discussion about creating a somewhat more formal
organization in preparation for the next time something like this happens,
so we can respond faster and more efficiently.

In solidarity,

Kristy Cooper
Save the Westland Library campaign
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