To the Editor:
I read with astonishment the comment made by the library board president John Bruce concerning the library union contract negotiations in the May 27 Grosse Pointe News article, "G.P. library unions accept fact-finder's conclusions." His remark, "we have been disappointed with the unwillingness of the union to sit down and bargain a contract" is incredibly misleading.
I am sure he is disappointed that the librarians and support staff refuse to accept the ridiculously meager wage/benefit package offered putting them at the bottom of the scale of salaries and benefits offered by comparable libraries in the metropolitan area.
In any service organization or business, the human resources are the most important assets. Without employees and their commitment to providing the best service possible in a positive environment, there would be no service, and consequently, no library.
The turnover in our system of professional librarians (who have master's degrees) has been 11 of 11.5 positions in the last nine years. How can we possibly attract highly qualified employees if our wage/benefit package is the lowest in the metropolitan area?
Since Mr. Bruce is so concerned about protecting what will best represent the interests of the Grosse Pointe taxpayers, it astounds me that the library board (one dissenting vote — Laura Bartell) approved a donation of $1,800 to the Woods Municipal 2004 Fireworks Display fund. Whether these donated funds are Foundation, gift, or tax funds, the money should be used for library purposes exclusively and not given away only to have them blown up in a puff of smoke in a matter of minutes.
This, in my view, is a complete misuse of funds. Other questionable uses of funds go to outsourced contractors such as: public relations, $3,000 per month; fund-raiser, $80,000+ per year; and consultant to the fund-raiser, $18,000 per month ($216,000 annually).
Perhaps the library board should exercise its frugality in the high cost areas such as legal advisers (the board uses three firms) and the outsourced contractors. That appears to be where a large chunk of the tax money is going.
With an annual income of more than $4 million and approximately $5 million in fund equity, the library is easily able to pay its employees the salaries and benefits that are more in line with comparable libraries in the metro area.
The compensation packages of our teachers and municipal workers in the Grosse Pointes certainly compare favorably with other local communities and in many instances, rank near the top with comparable workers. This should hold true for our library staff as well.
I strongly urge the library board to make every effort to implement the fact-finder's recommendations so that the library staff may ultimately have a fair and equitable contract and one that is more competitive with comparable public libraries in our area.
Grosse Pointe Park
Grosse Pointe Park
June 24, 2004