NY Public Library workers rip systems handling of COVID in scathing online missive

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New York Public Library workers have posted an online missive declaring that working in the system throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was a “nightmare,” and describing the institution’s bosses as “apathetic” about library employees’ wellbeing. 

“The last year and a half have been a nightmare for NYPL workers. We’ve been subject to the whims of an apathetic administration, and our experiences were hidden from the public in an attempt to present a veneer of normalcy,” reads a fuming Medium open letter  signed by “concerned staff of the New York Public Library.”

“All of this was done during a pandemic that continues to have a devastating effect on the various communities throughout the city,” the letter continued. “The mismanagement of the library’s operations, the refusal of upper management to allow staff the chance to communicate their concerns to them directly, and the continual gaslighting of staff who speak out against NYPL’s policies continues, even in light of rising COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant.”

The open letter’s authors claim the Big Apple’s public library management unfairly impugned their worth ethic when they didn’t want to put themselves at risk “under certain conditions” during the throes of the pandemic.

“Management has told staff both overtly and covertly that our unwillingness to work under certain conditions translates into disregard for the public, and implied that we are ungrateful considering the way that we’ve “taken care of each other” (another lie) through this difficult time.”

More broadly, the missive claims the workload for NYPL employees is unmanageably high.

“At worst, we’ve been bombarded with accusations of laziness and stubbornness,” it reads. “And at their very worst, we’ve been met with barely concealed vitriol from upper management and our executive board, as well as a lack of compassion for our increasingly unsustainable workload.”

“We are severely overworked, and morale is low.”

In response, a rep for the New York Public Library, which has 92 locations across the five boroughs, refuted the claims in the online letter, insisting management has adequately adjusted to the new pandemic realities and provided support to employees.

“Throughout the pandemic the Library’s priority has always been helping those who rely on us while keeping staff safe. Over the past 18 months, the Library has continuously readjusted its service model to support staff and patrons,” NYPL spokesperson Amy Geduldig said in a statement.

“While offering virtual and digital services, the Library also implemented a safe and gradual reopening of branches over the past year, introducing extensive health and safety protocols and regularly communicating with staff about trends or issues seen at the Library and throughout the City,” the spokesperson added. “The Library remains committed to ensuring our branches are safe and welcoming and will continue to support staff with the resources they need during this difficult time.”

At the beginning of the pandemic in New York City, de Blasio was “furious” about the prospect of city libraries closing and floated cutting their funding if they followed through, Politico New York reported on March 17, 2020. In early July, public library branches in Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island reopened. Masks are still required at the locations.

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