Library union questions $200K admin office reno as possible branch relocation looms

A spokesperson for the Saskatoon Public Library says the work was planned many years ago.

Library spokesperson says renovation project dates back several years

The Frances Morrison Central Library in Saskatoon. Two spaces in the branch were recently renovated, even though there are discussions about relocating the branch. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The Saskatoon Public Library may be moving its Frances Morrison central branch to a new location. So why were behind-the-scenes workers' offices recently renovated?

That's what the union representing library workers wants to know.

"This shows the priorities of our administration," said Pamela Ryder, the president of CUPE Local 2669.

"It's not about renovating public areas of the library and making them more friendly and usable for the public.… It's about creating a management system, and creating more managers and making space for more managers in the system and people that don't work with the public as much as library workers."

Plans approved in 2012

Janna Sampson, a spokesperson for the Saskatoon Public Library service, said the renovation of two spaces at Frances Morrison, including the upstairs space Ryder referred to, was approved in 2012 but not completed until last October.

The upstairs administration offices at Frances Morrison, one of two offices recently renovated at a cost of just under $200,000. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Smith Arm Construction did the work for just under $200,000. The money came from a library capital reserve fund. The library's board of governance approves spending from that reserve, while city council approves contributions to that reserve come budget time.

"Both projects resulted in more efficient layouts to have more employees occupy the same previous square footage," Sampson said via email.

The interior of the renovated upstairs administration office. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Part of the project was meant to free up space elsewhere in the building, she added.

"We are only in the early stages of developing a proposed business case for a new central library. I can't speculate on what the future will hold."

Just the latest disagreement

The renovation project is just the latest disagreement between workers and administration, who are still negotiating a new collective agreement after more than a year.

Last month, the union said the library board's decision to award Saskatoon library CEO Carol Cooley a bonus and the opportunity to attend a $9,900 university training course had created "a lot of resentment and hard feelings."

The union said such expenses were questionable, given that the library system faced funding cuts in the 2017-2018 provincial budget that prompted the layoff of 22 workers, though 13 of those workers were offered new jobs.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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