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Library downsizes: Four employees go part-time

Halifax County-South Boston Public Library is being forced to downsize due to budget cuts. 

Of the library’s eight full-time employees, four are transitioning to part-time positions, according to Director Joe Zappacosta who said he had little choice but to make personnel adjustments following a closed door meeting with board members last week.

Office hours at both the South Boston and Halifax locations were changed last week too to accommodate the public’s requests, he said.

With these changes made, Zappacosta said he hopes the libraries will continue to be a vital part of the community in the future.

After facing a $67,358 budget gap, the library director and library board members had little choice but to make some adjustments.

After going into executive session to discuss personnel, board members voted to change library branch hours and adjust personnel salaries to close the gap and balance the $403,432 budget.

According to Zappacosta, those four positions downsized to part-time were desk positions
with the affected employees
performing only one task.

The remaining full-time employees each can perform dual and triple duties, said Zappacosta, and they now may have to add to their job load.

“We haven’t laid anyone off. They are just part-time as it stands,” said Zappacosta.

He said the changes in staffing balanced the budget, and no plans exist to cut staffing any further in the future.

However, the library director said he hopes to begin an annual fund drive in the fall that will eventually be handed over to the up and coming library foundation, a separate organization. 

Also when the word “consolidation” comes up, Zappacosta said his feeling is “if there were a community driven need in a central location, I’d be all for it.” 

However, the director is quick to point out some of the drawbacks of a possible consolidation of the libraries.

Currently there is no transit system in place, and “I don’t see how it helps.” Also it would add up for large costs, and where would the money come from, he asked.

“Right now we have done everything we can to be as one entity. Essentially we are one library in two locations,” said Zappacosta.

The library director is hoping to open discussion with the Town of South Boston, the county and the Town of Halifax about where the library stands, and who’s responsible. 

According to Zappacosta a charter was developed in the 1960s when the library was created, but the agreement was never completed.

“We need to have a complete, open discussion and come to an agreement on where the library stands and just lay it all out,” said a concerned Zappacosta.

By changing hours to accommodate what the community is asking for the South Boston Library will be opened Monday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.  and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The South Boston Library will be closed every Wednesday. 

The Halifax Library will be open on Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Halifax Library will be closed every Friday. 

The changes will go into effect Aug. 13.

“We wanted to be closed during our slowest hours. We’ll have longer evening hours and Saturday hours and every Saturday we’ll have a children’s program at South Boston library,” said Zappacosta.

Beginning in September the libraries will have a library card drive and plan to become more visible within the community. 

“We want to be there as a guide,” he said. “Already we have five restaurants in the community that said they would participate and give a 10 percent discount to those who show their library card.” 

Hopeful the economy will improve, the library director looks forward to working with and partnering with other organizations and civic organizations in the community.

The library’s strategic plan is expected to be complete no later than September; the committee is currently working on the goals and objectives.

“The strategic plan is community based, and I believe we’re prepared to accommodate and become a more viable part of the community,” said Zappacosta.

The library director hopes the libraries will become a vital part of the community in the future and maybe even a destination instead of a stop on the way to somewhere else. 

“I believe if we make the necessary changes to evolve in the future to remain viable…we will have a lot to offer and given the opportunity, we could become even more valuable,” Zappacosta concluded.