CPL, union differ on library changes

Union concerned about costs and job loss but director says library must change with the times

Unionized Coquitlam Public Library workers are raising concerns about new management hires they say will make CPL operations more costly.

Monday, members of CUPE Local 561 addressed Coquitlam council about their concerns, arguing against the changes that are part of an overall restructuring and recommending the public ask questions about where the money will come from to pay for the new posts.

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In a press release, shop steward Allison Hardman said the funds — which the union estimates as $600,000 — should go towards books and resources, not adding management positions.

But CPL director Todd Gnissios said the restructuring won't cost any more than what is currently in the budget, except for $200,000 in transition costs, including training. He also said the changes are needed to make the library more technology-friendly and provide more outreach to the community.

Although six management positions have been posted, Gnissios said he expects that existing staff will apply and fill them if they meet the new job requirements.

Any job loss in unionized positions would come through attrition, he told The Tri-City News.

"To me, this is just a realignment of responsibilities and focusing on our library for the future," said Gnissios, who said the changes are in line with a two-year strategic plan adopted in December.

According to library head, the union has been aware of the proposed changes and the two sides have been in talks for 18 months.

He said the library needs people who can work with new technology, adapt to changing needs of the library and offer services outside the confines of the traditional library branch.
"Everything we're doing is changing. What we have is a structure that can't respond to that."

Indeed, the new strategic plan proposes to do more with technology, including teaching it, using it to do more outreach, such as with a mobile app, and encouraging programs for young people that will engage them in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. CPL also wants to develop an online branch.

Meanwhile, the union representing approximately 70 workers says the changes will mean a larger and costlier management structure than other public libraries in the Lower Mainland.

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