Midland library wants $76,500 to hire PR flack

·5 min read

This is part four in a series of five stories reporting on the budget presentations made to Midland council by local non-profits and agencies.

Midland Public Library (MPL) could soon be increasing its staff complement.

Crystal Bergstrome, chief executive officer and chief librarian at MPL, was at a special budget meeting last week asking council for $1.27 million in operating funding with an additional $76,544 to hire a full-time marketing and communications coordinator.

The operating budget request represents a 2% increase over what council gave MPL in 2020.

It's not clear how MPL arrived at the salary for the new position. Across the street, the Midland Cultural Centre is currently hiring a full-time promotions/marketing coordinator and offering a salary of between $35,000 and $38,000.

"We were not aware that the Midland Cultural Centre is also hiring for a position with the same title," Bergstrome wrote in an email responding to a MidlandToday request for clarification as to how the library had arrived at its number.

"I took some time to look up their posting, however being two very unique organizations, I cannot comment on their role, it’s duties and responsibilities, requirements, or how the salary was determined for that role."

In her email, she also wrote, that the library service enhancement request is for a total "payroll burden" (gross salary) of approximately $76,000.

"This does not imply that the salary for the position is $76,000," Bergstrome wrote, but didn't provide the actual pay for the position even when asked for it in a follow-up email. "Payroll burden includes the full costs for an organization to employ a person in a particular role and includes many factors/costs such as salary, benefits, insurance, etc."

She explained that factors, such as the organization’s needs, a detailed job description, experience, responsibilities, skill and education requirements, were considered when creating a salary range.

At the meeting, Coun. Cher Cunningham wanted to know how the new staff member would work to promote the library.

"This marketing and communications coordinator position would really help us engage with people of all ages in the community," Bergstrome said. "We went from 125 programs to almost 1,000.

"With those programs, you have to do advertising, have to market them, and do all the prep work. That's a lot of work on the staff we have. What we're hearing from the community is that they don't know some of our programs until they come in. This person would also take on the initiative of going into the schools and into the community and seniors homes and attending these community events and fairs. They wouldn't just be sitting in an office, you would see them out in the community."

Cunningham also wanted to know if there was a way to use the skills of the person to carry out some of the age-friendly committee needs in the region.

"Absolutely, I don't see why that wouldn't be a natural overlap," said Bergstrome. "We have the means and space to make those connections. The library should be the go-to place to help make those connections."

Coun. Carole McGinn wanted to know if there could be partnerships with other agencies that could fill the need.

"Have you gone to any other groups or agencies and asked them if they have any means of assisting with supporting getting the (library) news out?" she said. "Is there anything that, perhaps, is in the works?" Bergstrome said the library has been utilizing community connections over the last few years.

"Since I arrived in 2015, our programs have gone up 700%," she added. "That's a huge increase to be able to try and push that onto someone else. We've done what we can with our partnerships and in-house staff, and obviously we're still not meeting the demand. We're happy to utilize this with others, but we're at the point of saturation. It would be a lot to shove onto somebody else."

Finally, Coun. Bill Gordon wanted to know if the library staff could tighten their belt for a year like this and work harder and smarter if the ask isn't granted.

"We knew putting it out there (that) this was a rough time to ask," said Bergstrome "This is a position we know we've needed since 2018. This position is not to increase the membership numbers, it's more to engagement with the community whether they're members or not.

"We want them utilizing all the services we have. The staff are working well beyond their job descriptions and they're getting to the point of burnout, especially when you add on this transition this year. It's not sustainable."

Deputy Mayor Mike Ross wanted to know how much of that increase was being passed on to neighbouring communities that use the MPL.

"What's the increase we can pass along?" he said. "Is it going up 2% for each community?"

Bergstrome said a new contract is currently being worked out with the Township of Tiny.

"We’re asking, rather it being on a per household membership, for more stable funding," she said. "We’re in the process of working that out, so we will get the same number whether one person signs up or everyone does. We're also working in the contract to get the cost of increase no matter what. If anything else needs to be added, we would go back each year."

Despite the transition and intermittent closures, Bergstrome said there's been a 41% increase in program participation over the year.

Coun. Bill Gordon asked if there were any savings from layoffs or government grants.

"By the time the year is over, we should have saved over $100,000 from our 2020 operating budget," Bergstrome said. "While we didn’t lay off any contracted staff, we had about nine staff that were on-call or student pages who technically have zero hours each week.

"Those people weren't scheduled because we didn't need them. So while we weren't laying anybody off, we did save some funds that way. We also have a long-term staff member recently retire, so we’re saving money there as well."

Council will consider the request at its budget meetings, which begin the week of Feb. 22.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com