Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include wages for part-timers in libraries from surrounding communities.
Carolyn Aucello assisted Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's visitors at the circulation desk on Thursday morning. A co-worker was out sick, so Aucello, a part-time employee of 12 years, was pitching in.
"It's a good place to work," she said. "I've enjoyed working her for so many years. Our patrons are the best."
Margaret Borchers, the library director, said Aucello and other part-time employees are often the first faces people see when they walk through the library doors.
"Their excellent customer service, friendliness and considerate treatment of our patrons presents an image of the town of Monroe as a welcoming community and a good place to live, work and do business," Borchers said.
However, after six consecutive years without a raise, the library's part-time staffers do not feel appreciated. Borchers said they're the lowest paid when compared to libraries in surrounding towns.
According to wages for part-timers in other libraries provided by Borchers, Monroe is $10.92 an hour, Bethel $13.12, Bridgeport $14.85, Brookfield $14.28 to $15.53 depending on years of service, Fairfield $12.23, Newtown $15.52 to $17.77 depending on years of service, Redding $15, Ridgefield $14 to $16 depending on years of service, Shelton $11.14, Stratford $12.38 to $17.84 depending on years of service, and Trumbull $10.50 to $16.63 depending on years of service.
Monroe's part-time library employees also maintain that the average wage for comparable part-time town employees is $15 an hour.
"By the low pay, the town does not acknowledge their dedication to their work," Borchers said.
Longtime Library Board Chairman Bill Ehlers told Town Council members at their budget workshop Wednesday, "For $10.92 they can work at McDonald's. It's a shame and an embarrassment to the town."
Ehlers said the part-timers make the library go.
"This is the best staff I've come across," he said. "They're well trained."
Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, who frequents the library, said the job the staff performs goes well beyond just stamping books that people check out. "You have to be computer savvy," she said.
A Letter to Town Officials
First Selectman Steve Vavrek kept funding for the raises in the library's budget, but Town Council and Board of Finance approvals will be needed in order for it to stay in the budget proposal that goes to voters at referendum time.
On Nov. 30,2012, Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's part-time employees wrote a letter to Borchers, Ehlers, Lipeles and Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed pleading their case for the pay raises.
"The part-time employees in the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library have not received an increase in pay for six years. Based on competitive rates of other libraries, and rates of pay for similar positions in the rest of the Town, we are recommending a rate of $15 per hour. To achieve this goal, we propose an increase of $1.15 per hour each year for the next four years, with the rate of $15.52 to be achieved in four years.
"The budget impact each year would be approximately $15,000."
The employees then ask that future increases be in conjunction with other part-time town employees.
"The worthiness of the Library positions, as evidenced by years of dedication and experience, should be a prime factor in deciding on this proposal," they wrote.
"Part-time Library employees are required to be just as professional, and are called upon to perform the same technical and complicated transactions, and tend to public service functions, in the same manner as full-time employees. The expectation of high performance is the same as full-time employees," the letter continues.
"In fact, there have been periods of extraordinary pressure and public need, and the part-time employees were, and continue to be, available to alleviate the pressure. We are in every respect representatives of the Town of Monroe, and proud to be so. We care for the needs of Monroe's citizens, including children, every single day," the letter says.
The letter closes, "We hope our request will receive a favorable response from you commensurate with our responsibilities and regional compensation."