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In 2015 there were 11 managers at Saskatoon Public Library. Now there are 30.

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Workers at the Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) believe the cost of management within the organization is ballooning.

Multiple employees spoke with CTV News about the expansion of management positions and salaries as the library moves to cut public services.

According to Saskatoon’s public accounts statements, management and administration positions have more than doubled since Carol Cooley became CEO in 2015, from 19 to 45 by 2022.

In that time the cost of their salaries nearly tripled, from about $1.69 million to just under $4.85 million.

"This enormous increase in managerial spending has all been approved by an unelected library board," said one worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Saskatchewan’s Public Libraries Act mandates that all municipal libraries in the province be run by an independent board. It allows the organization a measure of independence from the shifting tides of electoral politics but has served to shield it from public oversight, the worker says.

"This board does not answer to city council or Saskatoon voters … but they do receive city funding," the worker said.

Public accounts records show Cooley is one of Saskatoon’s highest-paid public employees, earning $201,098 in 2022 — significantly more than the mayor. Her initial salary in 2015 was $128,690.

Compensation for library CEOs varies across the country.

In Halifax, the CEO makes about $190,000, while the Vancouver library head makes over $267,000. Cooley’s Regina counterpart Jeff Barber made over $209,000 in 2022. Edmonton Public Library told CTV News they don’t release CEO compensation publicly.

SPL’s Communications Director Janna Sampson told CTV News in a statement that the expansion of management positions in Saskatoon was the result of a staffing review that involved a survey of library employees.

"One of the findings was that there was not enough management support for employees and the report recommended a new management support structure. A new organizational structure involving new roles across the entire organization at all levels was implemented in 2018," she said.

"At the request of employees, we have also added more full-time in-scope positions in recent years."

Earlier this month Cooley asked city council to increase the library’s budget by 3.49 per cent next year as the organization grapples with public safety issues and has delayed construction of a new central library after the bids came in over the project's $134 million budget.

The funds will help cover three new positions, a security manager to cover evenings and weekends, a payroll clerk and an enterprise resource planning analyst, Sampson says.

The library also plans to hire a construction manager to help pare down the central library design to reduce the project cost.

Cooley told council they need a security manager in the evenings and weekends to help with rising safety issues at libraries in the city centre.

In 2022, two library branches were forced to close to the public for two weeks because staff no longer felt safe at work.

At the time, a representative from the union that represents library workers said one of the staff members was punched in the face after asking a patron to wear a face mask.

“We have taken swift and sustained actions in the last few years to improve our security response to the community issues we are presented with,” said Sampson.

“We believe that library workers should not be responsible for providing security. Security requires trained professionals and we employ security guards for those services.”

According to a survey of Saskatchewan library staff released last year, 71 per cent have witnessed violence and nearly half have been subjected to threats of physical harm while at work.

Survey respondents outlined understaffing as one reason library workers are put in harm’s way.

A March statement from SPL that Sampson provided CTV News says that staff can turn to their employee and family assistance program or a manager for support after experiencing a distressing incident.

"Meanwhile, actual library worker positions have been cut, resulting in worse service for Saskatonians. Services for residents, such as videogames, are being removed,” an SPL employee told CTV News.

“Instead of using the money they’ve been given from property taxes to improve services, they’ve largely given it to themselves.”

-With files from Keenan Sorokan 

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