Guilderland library staff are shocked and demoralized by trustees’ comments

To the Editor:

We are writing to express concern at the comments about staff and the work we do at the Guilderland Public Library made by several members of the Guilderland Public Library Board of Trustees at their monthly meeting on Nov. 19. The meeting was held virtually and streamed live from the library’s Facebook page.

At one point, a library trustee referred to the library’s current virtual programs as “artificial virtual things,” while another commented that the library staff were being paid for “very limited services” and asked that the December board meeting agenda include discussion of staff furloughs.

The resulting fallout for staff was immediate and deeply felt — the staff are shocked and demoralized.

GPL staff is currently juggling two of the most difficult challenges a library could possibly face: a global pandemic with terrifying and rising numbers of infections at this writing; and a building-wide construction project that has upended the library.

Vast spaces are closed off for construction, nearly every single item on our shelves has been squeezed into a much smaller footprint. Staff have had desks literally removed while working at them.

To be clear, and it’s worth stating the obvious, staff is not to be faulted for creating either of these immense challenges.

And yet, despite what we’re up against, staff work tirelessly to provide every possible service to our library patrons. We’ve been providing a popular curbside pickup since June, delivering hundreds of items a day to patrons in our parking lot.

We created a browse-able space filled with hundreds of new books in a community room for as long as construction possibly allowed. We stream dozens of story-hour programs and picture book “read-alouds” on our popular Kids & Families Facebook page and record stories for our popular Dial-A-Story service.

We hold virtual lectures, clubs, book discussions, and trivia programs attended by hundreds of patrons; we expand our digital offerings weekly by purchasing eBooks and audiobooks; we create countless crafts and take-home STREAM kits for parents and kids to do together; and we assist in the move and caretaking of more than 100,000 items and the dismantling of the library interior.

We continue to buy, process, shelve, and promote the materials and services that earned our library a well-deserved top spot in the Times Union’s recent “Best of the Capital Region 2020” poll.

We challenge anyone to find staff with more creativity, commitment, and flexibility than GPL’s. If the board of trustees moves forward with a discussion to furlough staff, the services we’ve worked so hard to deliver to our patrons during this crisis will be destroyed.

So, when a trustee derides our virtual programs as being “artificial,” we ask: Have you participated in any of our programs? Have you asked for feedback from someone who did? Do you realize that every other library in the area is doing the exact same as we are?

And there’s a certain irony to describing our programs as being “artificial” when the board meeting is held virtually, with the trustees in the safety of their own homes.

And when a trustee questions why we’re being paid for “very limited services,” and discussion turns to furloughs, we point out: GPL works, because WE WORK FOR GPL.

Until all of GPL’s library trustees understand the library’s day-to-day operations and staff accomplishments — at a time of unprecedented health and construction challenges — they remain uninformed and fail to represent their community’s best interests. 

Maria Buhl

Department Head

Programs and Services

Guilderland Public Library

President, CSEA Unit 2


Ann Wemple-Person


Programs and Services

Guilderland Public Library

President, CSEA Unit 1

Editor’s note: See related story.


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