22 August 2009

The Brooklyn Public Library Layoff Debacle

Yesterday, the Daily News reported that Brooklyn Public Library laid off 13 non-union employees to alleviate a portion of its $5.5 million budget shortfall. This news comes rather late; the terminations took place back on July 6. There has, however, been some not-so-local media coverage of this story that's been brewing for nearly two weeks.

On August 9, the Washington Post profiled the career-coaching and outplacement firm Five O'Clock Club in a lengthy article entitled "The Art of Letting Employees Go." Turns out, Brooklyn Public Library hired these downsizing specialists to assist with their layoff process and Post reporter Eli Saslow went along for the ride. His article includes some rather specific descriptions of the effected employees, even noting their client numbers with Five O'Clock Club. Big mistake.

Presumably, complaints by the 13 staffers and/or their still-employed colleagues were severe enough to warrant a flurry of apologies, accusations, and denials by BPL execs, Five O'Clock Club, and the Post. Library Journal deftly outlines the situation in this article which, in turn, elicited this response by the Post's ombudsman. Not only did Saslow all but identify the laid off employees by name, he may have added too much "color" to his story:
Contrary to Saslow’s description of Hall gulping two Tylenol, [Club president Kate] Wendleton said: “Kim does not pop Tylenol – ever.” She denied Saslow’s claim that Club employees get bonuses “almost every month.” She even denied his description of their offices being located “across from a laundry room where tenants come and go in their pajamas.”
He said, she said! All finger-pointing aside, I think journalists ought to remember that librarians take privacy issues quite seriously.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brooklyn Public Library invited a Washington Post reporter to cover lay-offs.

Why would any organization boast about its layoffs in any media?

Why did the library fail to protect its employees' privacy?

Why would any company look for ways to make the lay off process more painful?

A reporter recording people's intimate reactions to losing their jobs must have increased employees' trauma of getting laid off. That's like kicking a puppy when it's down. This debacle is an example of a sadistic way to lay people off.