Library Staff Restructuring Proves Beneficial; Clustering Provides Better Patron Services


St. Cloud, MN, September 2010: After 18 months of study Great River Regional Library (GRRL) has concluded that restructuring branch libraries, including clustering management of branches under one manager where appropriate, will provide improved patron service.

In 2009, the governing board created a branch restructure committee (BRC) to develop criteria for staffing at all levels within branches. Branch staff members were elected by their peers to serve on the BRC along with management and board representatives.

The board also authorized two pilot projects in 2009 to determine if clustering branches would improve customer service while controlling staffing costs. Four branches were selected to participate: Eagle Bend/Staples and Kimball/Annandale. These branches were selected to ensure both the northern rural and southern semi-suburban communities were studied. A branch manager position was open in each of these clusters due to recent retirements.

Branch Restructure Committee (BRC) - The BRC met from August 2009 through March 2010 to compile staff feedback regarding staffing levels and review statistical data from all GRRL libraries. The group developed a staffing calculator to serve as a tool to provide equitable staffing levels in all libraries. Because it uses individual library statistics as a basis, the calculator is responsive to the increasing demand on services throughout the region. The calculator identifies each library task that needs to be performed and assigns that task to the appropriate pay level. The number of times that task needs to be performed determines the amount of staffing needed at each library.

“The calculator allows us to increase our staffing levels without increasing our personnel budget. It will allow us to provide a consistent level of patron service at every location and to be responsive to increasing busyness at our libraries,” says GRRL Director Kirsty Smith.

The staffing calculator was approved as a management tool by the GRRL board of trustees at their March 2010 meeting. Branches identified as the starting point for implementation were those that had no library aide hours assigned or had greatly inequitable staffing levels when compared with other GRRL branches. Options for restructuring include increasing or decreasing a position’s scheduled weekly (annualized) hours, accepting voluntary changes from staff, normal attrition changing a position’s weekly schedule of assigned hours, creating geographically shared positions for staff at any staffing level, layoff or position elimination.

Starting in May 2010 members of management and administration met with individual branch managers to discuss the staffing calculator results for their branch and to adjust those results to meet the needs of their facility. After these initial meetings, individual GRRL branch cities were notified of the results with a letter from Smith and local branch managers. Each of the branch managers was given the opportunity to tailor these letters for their communities, though only two staff members asked for alterations.

“The ultimate goal of restructuring at GRRL is to assign the right tasks at the right pay level to maximize staffing dollars across the region. One result will be processing requests for materials and delivery behind the scenes rather than at the public service desk. This will allow public service staff to provide more focused service to our patrons,” says Sunny Hesse, regional coordinator of human resources.

According to Sauk Centre Branch Manager Dawn Shay, “For Sauk Centre, restructure is going to be a good thing because we will get the aide hours we desperately need. Our carts are constantly overflowing. We will be losing some branch assistant hours, but in the long run it will work out better to get tasks done at the right level, to have the right person having time to do them. Branch assistants will be able to do tasks they haven’t been able to because they have been shelving books.”

Branch Clustering - The final report on the clustering pilot projects states there are direct and indirect benefits for patrons in clustered branch communities. Direct benefits include branch assistants and branch managers having more uninterrupted time for customer service. In addition, having more staff hours allows branch managers to develop a team with greater depth and breadth of expertise in areas of programming, collection management, community outreach, etc. Indirect patron benefits include increased aide hours allowing faster response time for processing holds, getting materials back on the shelves and available for the next patron, and maintaining an attractive and welcoming library. Additional aide and branch assistant hours also allow branch managers more time for overseeing program planning and managing the local collections.
Additionally, clustering allows GRRL to provide more attractive hours and compensation for branch managers of small branches, including benefit-eligible positions. This will enable GRRL to continue to attract and retain excellent staff for some of our smaller communities. Similarly, clustering enables GRRL to provide a greater number of hours per position for branch assistants and aides, thereby making these positions more attractive and reducing turnover, and providing a more consistent public face to patrons.

Nate Matthews, Staples city administrator, said in a letter to the GRRL board of trustees “On behalf of the City of Staples, I would like to express my thanks for making this move [clustering]. I can see that the new alignment has allowed for better use of staff skills, and the increase in aide hours was necessary. Our collection is growing and the quality of our programming has increased because…our new branch manager has more time to prepare. Again…I think the recent change [clustering] was a fantastic decision….”

GRRL is one library system with 32 branch locations across Wright, Sherburne, Stearns, Benton, Morrison and Todd counties in central Minnesota. The system provides nearly one million books, CDs and DVDS and more than 250 public computers to almost 450,000 residents.

Contact: Sunny Hesse
Coordinator, Human Resources


Julie Henne
Coordinator, Communications/Fund Development

Great River Regional Library
News Release
GRRL Headquarters: 1300 W. St. Germain St.
St. Cloud, MN 56301