Vincas Kudirka Public Library, Lithuania: Exit policy/Training
The Vincas Kudirka Public Library has a policy aimed at retaining current employees, even if they are relatively older. Moreover, it provides them with ongoing training. The underlying factor is a belief in the value of experience for the job.
The library is the largest in Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city after the capital, Vilnius. It has more than 47,000 permanent users and about 500,000 temporary visitors each year (537,330 in 2006). It provides the citizens of Kaunas with a variety of library services through its six functional departments located around the town: the Adult Readers' Service Department; the Youth, Art and Music Department; the Children’s Literature Department; the Bibliography and Reference Department; the Methodology Department; and the Acquisition and Cataloguing Department. Library services include the renting and selling of books (sometimes for free); access to periodicals and specialist journals; information about the library and its collections; bibliographic queries answered by staff (by telephone or e-mail); and copying services.
The library also contributes to the social life of the town. For example, the Adult Readers' Service Department has a large hall in which, apart from the usual library activities, frequent exhibitions of Kaunas artists are held. Literary and musical evenings take place in the Youth, Art and Music Department, as well as meetings with artists and art or book exhibitions.
The Vincas Kudirka Library has 149 employees, the majority of them women (143). Most are full time, but about 30% are part time. The staff consists of 6 administrators, 4 chief librarians, 2 chief specialists and 137 librarians. The staff turnover rate is just 1% per year. The average age of the workforce is 51 years — about 5% are younger than 30; 10% are in the age range 30-40; 40% are 40-50 years old; and the remaining 45% are over 50.
Good practice today
In the case of Vincas Kudirka Public Library the reasons behind the employment of older workers do not lie with the usual shortage of younger workers in Lithuania. The organisation claims that it is not difficult to find workers in the marketplace; what is difficult is to find suitable workers. Because the job involves dealing with people, employees must have good communication skills and need to be patient and pleasant. Existing workers have proven abilities in this respect and the library makes considerable efforts to retain them. Staff are offered the possibility of remaining on at the library after pensionable age and also opportunities to develop their knowledge in seminars and training programmes. The inner culture of the organisation is very strong as evidenced by the many employees who have worked there for 10-20 years. Furthermore, people do not want to leave, simply because they like their jobs. In addition, pensions are low, which is one more reason to stay on working.
The initiative for older workers in this organisation has two main features. Firstly, employees are offered frequent training in order to maintain up-to-date knowledge in the field and, secondly, older workers have the option to work part time and stay with the library after retirement age.
Training is especially important. In 1999, in a wave of computerisation, the library installed a new computer-based system of work, with the aim of creating a new computerised catalogue, encompassing the library's entire collection and replacing the old card-index system. An Internet-ordering system was also installed, so that users could order books from home. To manage this change, all employees were sent on extensive training programmes, learning how to use computers, the Internet, e-mail, simple programmes and computerised catalogues. According to the HR manager, some older workers found it difficult to cope with such great changes. The problem was addressed by having a special programme of courses for librarians of mixed ages. Older and younger employees were trained together in one group, so that the younger ones could explain the 'tougher' issues to the older ones. This approach was successful and all employees eventually passed the training needed to proceed with the new systems. Since then, training has been ongoing and everyone receives the same training.
Training and seminars are held at the following locations: the Distant Librarians' Training Centre, the Development Centre of Lithuanian Culture Workers and the Lithuanian Scientific Libraries Association. Courses aimed at librarians cover, for example, the development of new computer programmes for libraries, new methods of print management, librarianship in the EU, electronic communication and the psychology of communication. There is ongoing training for administrative staff, too, in topics such as the management of change in libraries, accounting and business practices.
The second aspect of the Vincas Kudirka Public Library case is exit policy and part-time working. Currently, about 30% of the workforce are pensioners. Older workers in general have the option of working half-time for half-pay. (As already mentioned, the library values its older employees, especially for their erudition.) There are no strict rules on how employees leave the organisation. A personal conversation with the HR manager is always used in order to find out if a person is willing to stay or not, and exit is arranged depending on the situation of each individual. Many workers are happy to work part time because the library represents a way of life to them. Currently, about 30% of all library staff have chosen to work part time.
The library management is positive about the future, even though the average age of the workforce is over 50. When current staff need to be replaced, the HR manager is confident that people will come forward, even though the wages of librarians are below average in Lithuania.
Contact: Nomeda Domeikiene, CEO Assistant