AFSCME Members Power The Bethel Public Library

The way in which a public library benefits its community is always worth celebrating, especially on National Library Workers Day, which falls on April 9, 2019.

In Bethel, the 14 members of Local 1303-481 of Council 4, representing full- and part-time staff at the Bethel Public Library, appreciate the civic importance of their institution.

“We are the central gathering place for our community,” Library Assistant and Union President Linda Kral said.

“Our library is a safe place for people to come together,” Pat Conetta, Library Clerk and Union Treasurer, added.

The Bethel Public Library provides upwards of 100 different services and programs, making it an essential public resource in today’s digital age.

A quick sampling of this far-flung programming includes classes on crocheting and knitting, drop-in meditation, understanding Medicare, story times for children, and technology programs for all ages. The library recently hosted a mini-golf tournament to raise funds. It’s also home to an impressive gallery featuring local artists.

“We’re not just a place to borrow books or DVDs,” Library Assistant and Union Secretary Susan Anderson pointed out. “We have computers and a technology center. We help people find a job. We serve young and old, and everyone in between.”

Over the past few years, public libraries have seen the number of public programs offered per capita increase by 6.3 percent while the amount of staff per capita has decreased by 1.5 percent, according to 2017 statistics provided by the Public Library Association.

With library usage increasing and the need for library services remaining high (but with less staff to provide these services), it is more important than ever that libraries continue to receive necessary support – and that library workers mobilize to protect the quality of their jobs.

That’s why Bethel’s Library employees came together last year and voted to join Council 4.

“We did our research about AFSCME. We had great confidence in Council 4. They represent many libraries in Connecticut, including full- and part-time workers. They understood our needs as library professionals,” Kral said.

AFSCME currently represents more than 25,000 library workers across the country in state, municipal and federal libraries, a fact that was not lost on our members in Bethel.

The workers are currently in negotiations for a first contract, according to Council 4 Organizing Coordinator Kelly Martinez, and hoping for a fair and reasonable settlement.

National Library Workers Day is part of National Library Week (April 7-13, 2019). According to the American Library Association, the theme for 2019 National Library Week is “Libraries = Strong Communities.”

So, it’s only fitting that Local 1303-481 members are doing what they do best: serving the public with pride and commitment to their local community.

“I like working with the public,” Circulation Clerk Andy Elliott said. “I feel like I’m giving back to the community. It’s rewarding work.”