Originally Published: November 15, 2009 10:28 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Libraries rely on loans from other libraries so that patrons can check out books from other branches.
Now, the Prescott Valley Public Library is relying on a different kind of "loan": employees from other departments. The library has taken five employees on loan for six months as well as employees - ranging from clerical workers to Town Manager Larry Tarkowski - to contribute several hours a day a week to a few days a week.
Town government officials initially planned to double the library staff after moving the library from the third floor of the Civic Center into the adjoining building that opened Oct. 10.
However, just three months before Barton Malow of Tempe began construction on the library in January 2008, Tarkowski imposed a hiring freeze because he expected revenues to decline.
His action in October 2007 nixed plans to hire 17 additional employees for the library. A rare exception to the freeze involved hiring Kathy Hellman as library manager to replace former assistant director Susan Lapis, who took a job with the same title with the Yavapai County Library District in Prescott.
A year later, the Town Council adopted a policy to create flexibility in staffing by allowing town employees to relieve workloads in other departments. The policy established transfers for six months - with the possibility of renewal - while they continued to earn their existing pay.
The library appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the policy of any town government department. And by borrowing employees from other departments, the town is saving $600,000 a year, according to Human Resources Director Danielle Gersper.
"We are just trying to spread out and trying to manage it," Gersper said. She explained staff size in other departments determined how many employees would be assigned to the library.
The policy appears to be working, said Library Director Stuart Mattson, who has been on the job for 22 years.
"The public benefits from the staffing by better services," Mattson said. "There is no way we could have operated" without help from other departments.
Mattson said Hellman created two three-hour sessions - Library 101 and 102 - to prepare employees from other departments to work in the library. Library 101 covered the history and philosophy of libraries as well as different divisions, such as teens and adult sections, and fiction and nonfiction books.
Mattson said the second class offered more details, including how to use the computer system, search for a book, and monitor and operate the public Internet computers.
The employees from other departments perform tasks that include shelving books, processing library cards, helping in the teen area and cataloguing, Mattson said.
While he did not major in library science, recreation coordinator Roy Jenkins said his background in initiating programs and activities prepared him in part for working in the library. He started one to two days a week three months ago in the former library site, and now works full time.
"Everything is about public service," Jenkins said. "We want to help them (library patrons) get to where they want to be."
Fellow loaned worker Geralyn Lesak, an administrative specialist in the Police Department, said she changes her workstations every two hours in the library.
"The people are fantastic," Lesak said. "It's a real team. And people really take the time to explain processes and procedures."