Getting told you are getting laid off from your job on your birthday is not likely on anyone’s wish list, but long-time Chewelah library assistant Jay Andrews said he was not very surprised about the untimely news and sees his time off in 2013 as an “extended vacation.”
Andrews’ job position will be cut since the Chewelah City Council decided the city could no longer fund the library after 2012 due to recent audit findings requiring the elimination of nearly $250,000 from the annual general fund budget. Although Andrews has worked at the Chewelah Public Library for over 21 years, the longest for any Chewelah library employee, his position is the only one paid by the city and, therefore, a casualty of the cuts.
The library, which recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary, is funded 50 percent by the city and 50 percent by the Stevens County Rural Library District. Each pays approximately $100,000 toward providing library services in Chewelah six days a week. However, its hours of operations will be greatly reduced in 2013 as the district works to continue as many services as possible without the city’s half of the funding.
Andrews said he was aware “big changes” were coming, so the notification of the layoff was not a surprise. He is also not anxious about his job loss because he has confidence that the city residents will vote to annex into the district and restore services in January 2014, giving him an opportunity to return. He is staying on as a substitute for the district and is not planning to leave the community he has been a part of since he was nine years old. Andrews still resides in the house he has lived at since he was 12, which offers very affordable rent, he said.
The city intends to put the proposition for annexation on the April 2013 special election ballot (if approved by the district board and county commissioners), for which city residents would vote on whether or not they to pay the rural library district to provide library services in Chewelah long-term, costing them an additional 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“If they want to keep a good thing going, they will vote yes on annexation,” Andrews said.
He said the library is an economic draw to the area like when patrons in Addy use the library, they spend money in Chewelah. It also offers resources, service, knowledge and experience that benefits everyone.
“It’s a good investment in the people of the community, a good investment even if you don’t use it,” he said.
Andrews, a 1986 Jenkins High School graduate, was hired at the library in 1991 on a very part-time basis while working other odd jobs around Chewelah. But as the library evolved, so did the position, and he has been nearly full-time for years.
Andrews has worked under four different managers and has seen it through many changes. He was involved in the transition from before the library district existed to now as it manages the library today. He said the city started contracting with the district in 2001, and then took over management in 2009.
One of the biggest differences from when he started has been the evolution of the Internet as Internet computers were not even part of the services offered at the library then, but are now one of its biggest priorities.
Along with that, Andrews has developed into a valuable resource for providing computer knowledge to patrons. He is able to help people set up electronic e-readers, get patrons online, and teaches valuable skills to new computer users. He said teaching is an important aspect in all parts of his job as well as being able work with many types of people.
“Jay’s patience with helping people with technology problems is something the library and the Chewelah community has come to really value,” said Chewelah library manager Kate Skinner. “Modern public libraries are very important centres for digital literacy, places people can go for help and contemporary library staff need to have tech skills. Jay is talented in this area. The library and all the people he helps to become friends with their gadgets are really going to miss this.”
He has also acquired many other skills after two decades on the job including being able to recommend books to people based off experience, a personal service you cannot get on the Internet, Andrews said. He also works with kids regularly and enjoys running weekly preschool storytime.
People get to know him at the library, he said, and appreciate the familiarity of someone who is there they recognize each day. Andrews said he has made friends from seeing people regularly in the library as well. It is a comfortable place to work, he said.
Skinner is inviting the community to an open house to support Andrews during his final days of work on Dec. 26, 27, and 28. There will be cider and cookies available at the time.
Co-worker Kristina Payne said Andrews issued her first Stevens County library card in Stevens County when her family moved here 10 years ago.
“…Jay was my librarian all through high school and after,” said co-worker Kristina Payne. “To me he has always been a part of the Chewelah Library, in fact it’s hard to think of Chewelah and not think of Jay. He is a part of the reason I decided to become a librarian and now I am very blessed to have him as a co-worker. It is very tough to see him go…”
By Kellie Trudeau
The Independent Staff