February 17, 2018

Does Requiring Guards at PhiladelphiaPLsMean MoreClosures?

By Norman Oder

  • Library staffers criticize new rule
  • Library spokesperson said goal is safety, cleanliness
  • Shortage of guards

After a judge stymied efforts by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to close 11 of 54 Free Library of Philadelphia branches, the branches have periodically closed because of staff shortages—and library watchdogs say a new rule requiring guards at each branch will compound that effect. The library now requires four workers (including guards) to open a branch rather than the previous minimum of three. 

FLP spokeswoman Sandy Horrocks told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the goal of the policy is to keep libraries safe and clean, as guards also serve as cleaners. 

Library union head Kahim Boles suggested, however, that the new move “just seems suspect to me." Boles told the newspaper that "we have been trying for years to get the city to open libraries with guards present," but that the city had never responded. In fact, a shortage of guards has closed libraries, since 11 guards were transferred to save $300,000. 

Amy Dougherty, who heads the library’s Friends group, told the newspaper, "For lack of just $300,000, we have to close libraries again?" The Friends web site warns, as does that of the FLP, “Unscheduled closures continue throughout the library system due to staffing shortages and building emergencies.”


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