More than 50 library staff at Auckland Council could lose their jobs before Christmas in a big shake up and cost-cutting exercise.

The council is also looking at shutting 31 libraries between Christmas and New Year for the first time and making staff work at two or more libraries.

Libraries general manager Mirla Edmundson said "resetting the library service" was in the early stages, but confirmed it could affect 1100 fulltime and part-time staff. Changes are expected to be decided in December and largely implemented by February next year.

A freeze on recruiting new staff since the middle of the year could reduce the number of staff cuts, she said.

Advertisement

A staff information document, Fit for the Future, issued on August 15 and obtained by the Herald, said there is a need to reduce staff numbers by around 5 per cent.

Part of the reason for Fit for the Future is to make "significant savings' as part of an organisation wide efficiency drive. The library budget is $65 million this financial year, of which staff costs make up two-thirds.

Other goals are to better respond to changing customer needs and ensure libraries have the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time.

The document said it did not mean reduced opening hours or closing libraries. Libraries were changing with fewer, but longer visits and more electronic check outs. At the same time, staff numbers had remained almost unchanged, the document said.

One proposal on the table is to break with tradition of librarians being based at one library and make them work at two or more libraries to "share skills and grow capacity across the network".

Edmundson said 31 of the 55 libraries would close between Christmas and New Year in what was traditionally a quiet time for staff to take leave and save money while still maintaining a service for people. Local Boards were notified in September, she said.

Orakei councillor and former Orakei Local Board chair Desley Simpson said she and at least two other board chairs were unaware of the library closures, saying communities should be consulted about any changes to a core service like libraries.

Mayor Phil Goff said he had not seen the numbers behind the proposed jobs losses at libraries but had been told that some libraries had minimal use between Christmas and New Year.

"The council should talk with local communities about whether there should be any significant loss of service if this happens," he said.

Library staff have been told by council management not to talk to the media about the changes.

The PSA, which represents library staff, who are among the lowest paid council workers, said there was a change process under way and it was working with council to represent members' interests.

"The council has yet to make any concrete proposals, and until that happens we can't comment further," PSA media adviser Jessica Williams said.

Last year, the council backed away from a proposal to reduce library hours to cut costs, but councillors agreed to reduce the hours at some libraries and increase them at others.