BEAVERTON, Oregon — The City of Beaverton is considering reducing library staff and hours in response to recent budget challenges.
“It feels like a slap in the face for [librarians],” said Adam Korst, library union president.
Earlier this month, Korst said he sat in the same room with eight Beaverton librarians as city officials told them their jobs were unofficially on the chopping block, pending approval by city council.
“It's gut wrenching,” said Korst. “This is people's livelihood and librarians — it's a very niche job and it's very hard to find jobs within that field. This is something people have worked a very long time for.”
The pending cuts come as the city of Beaverton responds to what they call “unprecedented” funding challenges.
“Economic conditions like rising inflation and expenses outpacing revenues have exacerbated the financial strains brought on by the pandemic,” said Dianna Ballash, spokesperson for Beaverton. “As a result, fiscal year 2023-24 budget development includes recommendations that are being considered to address a $10 million general fund shortfall, a $1 million library fund deficit and immediate steps toward a path of long-term fiscal sustainability.”
This week, the budget committee was presented with a recommendation to cut nine library staff positions citywide. That includes eight full-time or temporary positions and one vacancy at the Beaverton City Library and the Murray Scholls branch. The city could also reduce hours at the Murray Scholls Branch from seven down to four days a week.
“I hate to see anyone lose their job,” said library guest John Payne. “At the end of the day they provide a service, and it's a service that the community uses.”
Payne said he uses the Murray Scholls branch about three times a week and lives less than a mile away. He said he would feel the impact of reduced hours.
“If you've got to go to the main branch, that's a fantastic facility, but at the same time it's nice having local access to a nice branch,” said Payne.
Another library guest told KGW he's indifferent to the reduced hours, happy to visit other branches and said he would not notice staffing cuts.
“They've got signs that say, ‘use the electronic checkout,’” said Art Bahrs. “You don't need a librarian anymore.”
Korst disagrees. He's hanging onto the city's words that the proposed cuts are not yet a done deal. He hopes that they can find a way to reduce the budget without reducing jobs.
“These are people, these are lives, these are stories,” said Korst. “It was incredibly challenging to sit with these eight librarians and hear the stories of how this is going to impact their lives.”
The next budget committee meeting is scheduled for May 23. A public hearing and possible approval by city council is slated for June 6. City officials said if the library cuts go through, guests should expect reduced hours to kick in late this summer or early fall.