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Harper Woods

October 22, 2013

Suzanne Kent chosen as interim library director

Library board discusses considering part-time director

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

HARPER WOODS — Adult Services Librarian Suzanne Kent loves working with library patrons — being out on the library floor helping others — but she also has experience in an interim role as library director, so library board members knew she could do a good job in the role again.

They voted to offer Kent the interim position. That was the easy part. The hard decision will come later, when the board needs to permanently fill that role.

During an Oct. 10 board meeting, board members discussed whether they should go with a full-time replacement at a lower rate of pay than Dale Parus, who recently left for the leadership position at the Shelby Township Library, or find a part-time director.

“We would like to post it as a full-time or a part-time position,” board Vice President Theresa Larrew said.

They want to attract a wide range of candidates to choose from when deciding on a new director. They’ll also be looking at internal candidates.

The issue is whether someone can do the job effectively on a part-time basis. If so, it would mean a significant cost savings to the library, which faces tough financial issues in the future.

“These are such insecure economic times,” Library Secretary Frank Sosnowski said.

If the library board went with a part-time director, it could save more than $40,000 between pay and benefits.

“That’s $40,000-$45,000 that can go to the general library budget, which is approximately what our deficit is annually,” Library Board President Mark VanDeMark said.

It isn’t unheard of to have a part-time director. For instance, they said Fraser has had one, but that person actually puts in more hours than the job description.

When asked if she thought part-time would work, Kent said she wasn’t sure if it would work for Harper Woods.

“We’re a little bit larger than Fraser,” she said. “We border other communities where we have heavy traffic.”

While everyone on the board listened to the discussion, they didn’t seem ready to commit to a part-time replacement.

“I don’t see how a part-time director is feasible,” Board Treasurer April Spraggins said.

“I don’t like the idea of a part-time person, personally,” Sosnowski said. “I just feel that a job well-done usually requires a lot of time.”

Yet, others saw possibilities to consider.

“I’m looking at it as an opportunity to say, ‘Let’s take a step back and see if there’s a better way of doing things,’” Larrew said. “It’s very much driven by the budget.”

Larrew was keeping an open mind about it, but she doesn’t want to do anything that will negatively impact the library.

“In my mind, it’s a possibility,” Larrew said. “It’s not unprecedented, and the budget might be leaning us that way.”

Ultimately, though, she said they need to make sure they do this right when making a decision on which way to go.

Parus said there were some options for changes that could be made. For instance, he is involved in local library associations, which might be able to be reduced in scope for a new director.

Yet Parus did more than administrative duties in his role.

“I am a frontline worker, too,” he said of his work on the library floor with patrons.

The board also talked about looking for a more recent graduate for the position, not quite fresh out of college, but someone who has fresh ideas and might consider a lower salary.

Kent asked, however, if the board felt that a recent graduate would be able to have turned the library into the first green library in the state, a status the Harper Woods Library has under its belt.

Some library staff was at the meeting. They had concerns that Parus only had a couple more days in the post after that meeting and  wanted to know the plans for after he left.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.