The 80 branches of the Chicago Public Library are not staffed sufficiently to meet the needs of library users and community residents, an audit released Wednesday by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found.
In 2012, budgets cuts proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by the Chicago City Council prompted the elimination of more than 26 percent of the total workforce, including 146 part-time library pages, who were charged with sorting and shelving books, according to the audit.
While some page positions have been restored, total staffing is down 182 positions from 2011, according to the audit. 75 percent of department’s $74 million budget is spent on personnel costs, city data shows.
That has meant that clerks and librarians are routinely forced to do tasks “outside their job descriptions and for which they are overqualified,” according to the audit.
In addition, library officials failed to properly apply their own criteria when determining staffing levels, which is determined by the number of visitors, circulation volume, computer usage level, population and the number of schools in its area, according to the audit.
Nearly 19 percent of libraries were not staffed properly using those criteria, according to the audit. In addition, the audit found that Chicago Public Library officials should consider another 10 factors when determining staffing levels, as recommended by the American Library Association.
Because many branches are understaffed, “many positions perform many roles,” a branch manager told investigators, according to the audit. That results in “personnel spending time on activities that could be done more cost-effectively by employees holding other titles.”
A system-wide analysis of staffing levels is required, according to the inspector general’s office.
In response to the audit, library officials agreed to revise its staffing plan, and adopt a policy implementing its findings. However, library officials rejected the inspector general’s recommendation to share the plan with all employees and involve the library board and community members in developing it.
Chicago Public Library spokesman Patrick Molloy said the library “has made significant strides in recent years, shifting from a uniform branch staffing process to a more responsive approach based on community needs and library usage.”
“We appreciate the feedback from the [inspector general] and are always open to suggestions on how to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in our service to the community,” Molloy said in a statement.