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The Forest Park Public Library cut four employees earlier this year, in direct response to the state minimum wage increase, according to Pilar Shaker, library executive director. 

In February, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that increased the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The state last increased its minimum wage to $8.25 per hour in 2010. Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, sponsored the new minimum wage bill. 

After the law was signed, Shaker said officials crunched numbers to figure out how much implementing the new minimum wage standard would cost the library. They realized they couldn’t afford to keep all their staff.  

“Rather than working through the incremental steps knowing we’d have to eliminate the position anyway, the library board decided it would be best to immediately implement the $15 dollar minimum wage and eliminate the position of page from our staffing structure,” Shaker said in an email. 

The library cut four pages, who are individuals responsible for reshelving materials after they are checked in, making sure items are not misshelved, and straightening book cases. The staffing change became effective on May 1, at the beginning of the library’s 2020 fiscal year. The library’s budget for fiscal 2020 is $1,941,784 — excluding the budget for its interior renovation, which the library is funding through savings from previous years. There are 26 total employees at the library, and 10 are paid minimum wage. Forty-nine percent of its budget goes toward staff salaries.

Shaker said the library gave pages more than four weeks’ notice of the change, provided them with letters of recommendation for future employers and told them they could be prioritized for future openings at the library. All four left the library earlier than expected, Shaker said. Their duties are now being assumed by Patron Services associates. 

“We have been operating without pages for approximately three months and have not experienced a slowdown in the speed at which materials are being re-shelved,” Shaker said. “Our library associates have really risen to the challenge that this change presented, and we don’t feel that patrons have noticed a change in services or standards as a result.”

For Forest Parkers who want to support the library, Shaker said they can donate, support fundraising initiatives, be gentle with the library’s materials and facility, and pay their taxes on time. 

“The best way to support the library is to use it,” she said. 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com