Library’s Rebuttal to Budget Committee Action

January 9, 2015

submitted by Charlie Matthews, Director, Rodgers Memorial Library

The Rodgers Memorial Library is extending its operating hours to include Sundays on a trial basis beginning Jan. 18 and ending May 17.  The Hudson Library Board of Trustees has long considered offering Sunday hours during the school year for students and other patrons.  A January 2011 survey of library patrons found that 51 percent would use the library Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.  More recently, a community-wide survey conducted for the library’s strategic plan indicated continued interest in using the library on Sunday.  With this change, the library will be open 69 hours a week for the benefit, convenience, and enjoyment of our patrons.

Most public libraries in New Hampshire are not open Sunday, but those that are report brisk activity.  They find that patrons love Sunday hours, perhaps because they are busy running errands Saturday and have more leisure time Sunday when they are inclined to visit the library.  These libraries also report that staff do not like working Sundays and scheduling Sundays can be difficult.  Staff experience burnout over time and it’s the first day they want to drop.  High turnover is a chronic problem.

Several libraries hire “Sunday-only” staff, an imperfect solution for any organization.  Our public services staff is cross-trained at our three service desks and can fill in or collaborate with other staff as needed.  Other libraries assign part-time, low seniority staff to Sunday slots, but our Trustees require at least one full-time or experienced part-time staff member on all weekend shifts to provide full service to patrons anytime that we are open.

Some libraries pay straight time for Sunday hours.  Wadleigh Memorial Library in Milford offers a 10 percent premium to full- and part-time staff.  Nashua Public Library staff volunteer to work for time-and-a-half or double comp time for Sunday hours.  In all, I contacted seven area libraries who are open Sundays.  One other thing these libraries have in common besides Sunday hours is that their pay scales are significantly higher than ours.

We listened to the Hudson community and have responded to the request for Sunday hours.  Sunday is still the presumed day of rest according to the NH Department of Labor and some of our staff have indicated that they do not want to work Sundays, at least one for religious reasons.  The NH DOL treats Sunday differently, requiring either a signed waiver from employees or the posting of Sunday schedules internally with a current copy on file with the DOL.

The Library Trustees approved time-and-half pay for full and part-time staff as an incentive to voluntarily work Sunday hours.  We can fund Sunday hours because most of our staff are part time and receive little or no benefits.  As a result we traditionally give part-time salary monies back to the town due to sickness, unpaid leave, vacancies, etc.  We also recognize and appreciate that other town employees are working on Sunday, but unlike us, they work under collective bargaining agreements.

I believe that both our patrons and staff morale will be better served by employees who want to work Sundays as opposed to those who have to work Sunday.  I will be working at our Circulation Desk on Sunday, Jan. 18, from 1 to 5 p.m.  I hope you can stop by and visit us.