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The City of San Jose is facing a $116 million deficit.   What does this mean?  It equals 878 jobs.

A local television station, CBS 5, did a story on the impact on children and families of losing libraries and community centers.  These two screenshots from their story really sum up how horrible this is.

budgetcuts Libraries are going to be open only 3 days per week.  We are going to lose 110 jobs in the library.  We will have reduced money for collections, for support services like web & IT, on and on.  More or less, as things stand it looks like we will be barely treading water once all the cuts take effect.

For the Parks department, they’re looking at 21 community centers closing and losing 117 jobs.

About half of our budget shortfall is a huge increase in the amount of money the city has to put into pension pay-outs (because of investment value decreases).  I know every pension fund is facing that, but to me San Jose’s case seems rather extreme.  So, to pay off people who retired we are firing people who work there now?  That makes me so sad.  The mayor says that if all remaining employees take a 10% pay cut (permanent, not one-time), then the city could potentially keep 2/3 of the jobs we’re looking at losing.  So far the unions have said no.

librarycutsThe City of San Jose is in a bad space.  We’re not going to survive this very easily or cleanly.  I worry, whether I have a job there in four months or not.  Whoever is left is going to be doing less, with less.  As with almost all libraries right now, in a few months the survivor guilt and stress of greater responsibilities and greater demands are going to start taking hold.  It’s crucial that we address staff morale, dealing with layoffs (both for those laid off and those left behind), counseling services, stress relief at work, and being realistic about what we can achieve.

More than anything, I hope that all libraries will follow the example of our Director, Jane Light.  She has been honest with the staff from day one about how bad the cuts are.  No sugar coating it, no hoarding information, no sealing admin off behind closed doors.  There have been open meetings with staff on an ongoing basis, constant emails, and guidance for managers.  Honesty is definitely the best policy when bad news is the order of the day, whether it’s the easy path or not.

“San Jose $116 million short = 110 lost library jobs”

  1. Jane Cronkhite Says:

    When all is said and done with this current economic crisis, I hope that someone writes about how public services across the country have been affected. I want to hear the success stories, I want to read about some brilliant strategizing, campaigning, and community building. Right now we are in the depths of despair. All I kept thinking when we were at the meeting yesterday, when we actually were able to put faces and names to the 1/3 of the library workforce that will potentially be cut is, “How can this be?!” Part of me is so numb because for one, we’ve been through the government who has cried wolf and not had to really make cuts. Part of me is numb because many of my colleagues, friends, and family have already gone through this the past few years, some survived and some didn’t. But I just find it hard to believe that we’ve come to a place where the options are for there to be libraries open half the time, a 2/3 less community centers, nearly 200 less police officers, OR that everyone has to take a 10% paycut.

    On a positive note, I agree that Jane Light has handled this very well. I think sharing information, particularly with library staff (hehe) is very helpful in this process. What’s hard is feeling that in this situation, there simply may be no answer. :/

  2. AndrewC Says:

    I’m really sorry to hear that!

    Does this affect only the SJPL, or does it also include the King Library? Given the fact that the King Library is a joint operation between SJSU and SJPL, it would seem unlikely that they will close King for four days a week.

    And I definitely agree – in light of layoffs, staff morale traditionally goes down a LOT. When I used to work at an online high school, near the end of it, we were seeing layoffs of one to two staff members at least every four weeks. It made us not enjoy the work environment, but it did make all of the remaining staff members really tightly knit.

    I’m crossing my fingers that things turn out alright for everyone.

  3. Rosario Garza Says:

    Decisions that were made 20, 30, 40 years ago concerning the pension system here in California are now impacting the ability of cities, counties, and even the library systems (like Southern California Library Cooperative) to meet their obligations concerning the retirees. I strongly suspect that 40 years ago no one thought that today’s workforce would be having to decide what services to cut, who to lay off and what facilities to close because of the choices made regarding CalPERS, etc. And the scary thought: it is going to get worse, a lot worse — as more and more people retire.

  4. Sarah Houghton-Jan (Librarian in Black) Says:

    Andrew – King Library hours are also going to be affected. King is one SJPL branch, just like the others, except we share the building with SJSU’s Library. The hours may not be as severely cut as the branches, but there will be significant cuts. The CSU system, of which SJSU is part, is also suffering a huge financial crisis. The SJSU Library does not have the money to keep the library open as many hours as it is now. SJPL doesn’t have the money. Therefore, there will be staffing, hours, and services cuts at King — just like all the other SJPL libraries.

    And Rosario, I completely agree about the pension problems. Many government organizations used to require that you only work for them for 5 years to get health coverage FOR LIFE. Wow. No wonder we’re poor. No wonder current workers are supporting past workers. No wonder we will be making huge cuts. I personally believe that the entire state needs to go back, city by city, and county by county, and make some hard decisions about the extremely cushy benefits many current retirees got decades ago. It’s not nice, but the alternative of having virtually no local government operations in the state is even worse.

  5. Rosario Garza Says:

    Sarah: I am in complete agreement with you. I was astounded, simply astounded, when I found out that if I retire from SCLC (which I plan to do) and if I’ve worked here for at least 5 years (I will unless something happens), my post-retirement health benefits will be paid for by SCLC. As an administrator, I was appalled ’cause all I could think of was the ongoing liability. Yes, we need to make changes. But so far, no one has the guts to take this on.

  6. Lori Reed Says:

    We faced a similar situation in Charlotte last month when we lost 1/3 of our staff. We still face a 50% reduction in our total budget in July, The situation is serious. We need more voices like yours. Please contact us at if you are interested in blogging about this – and not just Sarah anyone who reads this.

  7. AndrewC Says:

    Oh wow..thats really unfortunate.
    This is making me slightly regret pursuing my MLIS right now…
    hopefully within the next year, some kind of better resolution comes about before I enter the workforce as a librarian,,,

  8. Anne Says:

    It is a horrible situation we are in right now. When you sign on to work at a public library you know you live and die by the economic status of your area. Sounds like Jane Light has done an admirable job in helping staff cope. In 22 years, I never imagined what public libraries are going through now.

    And I have to say “Hey Now!” about the pensions. I was promised a pension when I signed up. I have worked my buns off for 22 years. I deserve my pension. The same formula is used for everyone (outside of fire and police) to calculate pensions. My pension isn’t terrific.

    I’m not going to be living high off the hog. In fact, I may need a part-time job for a few years.

    We pay into social security. Do we feel upset about putting in today for benefits others receive today knowing our benefits may not be as good as they are today?

  9. Jane Cronkhite Says:

    Re: Andrew and getting your MLIS– I’ve heard a couple of people say the same thing who are in school now or are thinking of going into school. My advice is, if this is your passion, then you should do it irregardless. I got my MLIS in spring 2002 when there was a much smaller economic crisis, but still, there were quite a few job freezes. I moved across the country and took a job in a non-ideal place for a couple of years. The crisis is hitting every industry, but it *will* get better, so I wouldn’t let this get you down when it comes to a career decision.

  10. Sarah Says:

    To Andrew: I agree with Jane. She’s smart. Listen to her. :)

    To Anne: Working for 22 years and getting a pension is absolutely deserved. What irks me is all the cities & counties that set up systems in the 70s and 80s where you only had to work for the organization for 5 years (sometimes only 3) and you’d get health care for life for free. That is messed up, and it’s no wonder that those government organizations are now broke. I do not begrudge you your pension at all! And to answer your question, yes it pisses me off that I pay into social security but will likely never see a dime of it as a 33-year-old woman who’s not retiring for 30 years.

  11. Ben W. Says:

    Wow. Three days a week and a loss of 110 jobs!?! That is truly frightening. Between budget woes, political stagnation, an entertainment industry that passes itself off as a news industry, and a distinct lack of support for the libraries that helped make this country what it is…well, I’m scared. Good luck to our friends in San Jose and everywhere else!

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