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Change in staffer's status cancels North Versailles library's programs

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 4:41 a.m.
North Versailles Public Library canceled its library programs until further notice because of staffing changes approved last week by the board of trustees.
Eric Slagle | Daily News
North Versailles Public Library canceled its library programs until further notice because of staffing changes approved last week by the board of trustees.

A staffing change at North Versailles Public Library has resulted in the cancellation of its programs until further notice.

Library director Michael Kowalcheck said the library board of trustees changed staff member Karen Schmidt-Ramsey's employee status and reduced her schedule by five hours per week, thus forcing the eliminations.

Schmidt-Ramsey, who had been the children's librarian for eight years, is now a library clerk.

Kowalcheck said that means no one is available to plan and host programs and activities, including the summer reading program for children and activities for teens.

“I argued against it but it didn't work,” Kowalcheck said.

He said Schmidt-Ramsey, who is listed as assistant director on the library's website, has been instrumental in fundraising as well. He said clerks are not authorized to administer and run programs.

Kowalcheck said the library also must cancel its adult book club, knitting and scrapbooking, senior computer classes, and fundraising and outreach activities.

Schmidt-Ramsey could not be reached for comment.

Trustees president Mary Ann Fetsick could not discuss the board's decision because it was a personnel issue, but she said it was related to a question about job description. She said the board asked for but did not receive information about Schmidt-Ramsey's duties.

Fetsick said directors did not consider Schmidt-Ramsey a full-time employee. Kowalcheck said he did, even though she did not receive benefits.

Kowalcheck said Schmidt-Ramsey is not an accredited librarian but, from his point of view, serves in the capacity of one. He noted that she regularly has taken continuing library education classes required of full-time librarians and had library experience while serving in the military.

He said Schmidt-Ramsey's annual earnings before the demotion were around $20,000 and were not placing undue burden on the operating budget, which is around $105,000 per year.

Kowalcheck said the library recently received a $34,000 contribution from the township.

Township board of commissioners president George Thompson said he is trying to arrange a meeting with library board members and Kowalcheck to identify and resolve issues.

Resident and summer reading program volunteer Kristen Keleschenyi said she was notified by phone that this week's reading session had been canceled, an announcement she said left her “kind of in limbo.”

“We're just concerned the kids won't be able to finish the program,” Keleschenyi said.

Keleschenyi said the nine-week program attracted about 100 readers, including two of her three children, from as far away as Monroeville.

The program was to end on Aug. 6 but Keleschenyi said, “I think there are a lot of things that are up in the air right now.”

Kowalcheck said the staffing change will not result in any change in hours of operation. He said he hopes programs will resume by fall.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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