23 Apr 2020 News

Coronavirus Melbourne: Whitehorse and Manningham Libraries stand down staff from eight branches

Story Credit: Kiel Egging, Maroondah Leader

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Whitehorse and Manningham Libraries operate eight branches in the two municipalities including Nunawading Library. Picture: Wayne Taylor.

Staff at eight library branches in the outer east have reportedly been let go, prompting a Labor MP to express her disappointment that library operators didn’t think outside the box and re-employ them.

A library operator in Melbourne’s east has stood down staff from eight branches due to the coronavirus outbreak, angering a state MP.

Manningham Leader understands Whitehorse and Manningham Libraries made the cuts on Friday, citing a lack of work for staff at the branches.

The branches closed to the public on March 27 but kept its digital collection available on its website.

Calls to the organisation’s administration office received automated voicemail messages and transfers to another library, which were also unanswered.

Eastern Metropolitan Region state Labor MP Sonja Terpstra expressed her disappointment in a post on her Facebook page.

Ms Terpstra said other libraries across Melbourne had remodelled services to keep staff employed.

“Of course they can’t offer face-to-face services, but many libraries have pivoted and changed their services to do more online offerings,” she said. “I’m disappointed and I think they could’ve tried harder … there’s lots of different things they can do.

“It doesn’t make sense to stand people down; libraries are important for mental health and for people to stay connected, and doing this now is so shortsighted.”

Whitehorse councillor Ben Stennett said he and other councillors were also unaware of how many staff had been stood down.

Cr Stennett said he expected the organisation to find redeployment opportunities within both council areas.

“We don’t want to lose good staff and we don’t want to see a situation where people are unable to pay rent, a mortgage or bills,” he said.

The libraries’ chief executive Sally Both said the libraries’ closure was a State Government directive and beyond the organisation’s control.

Ms Both said it had been looking for alternative work for its staff but did not say how many had been affected.

“In these extraordinary circumstances we are doing all we can to deliver adjusted services to the community and to find alternatives for our frontline staff, where reassignment is not possible we are asking staff take leave,” she said.

“These changes are temporary and we planning for when restrictions are relaxed and we can start to resume some normal operations.”