Chicago Public Library Staffing Audit

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit evaluating the design and implementation of the Chicago Public Library’s (CPL) staffing plan, which allocates positions among CPL’s 80 library locations. The objectives of the audit were to determine whether CPL’s staffing plan followed industry guidance and was an effective and efficient tool for allocating human resources among CPL libraries.

While CPL’s staffing plan improves upon its previous uniform staffing approach, OIG determined that due to deficiencies in its design and implementation, the plan is not sufficient to align library branch staffing with community needs.

Referring to staffing industry guidance from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the American Library Association (ALA), OIG identified several flaws in the design of CPL’s staffing plan. We also found deficiencies in how CPL implemented the plan, such as not collecting and using all relevant data, and not consistently assigning staff to libraries at the prescribed levels.

These flaws in the design and implementation of CPL’s staffing plan may contribute to inefficient use of CPL’s human resources. Some staff reported performing tasks that fell outside their job descriptions and for which they were overqualified. For example, Clerks and Librarians reported regularly engaging in sorting and shelving, tasks normally done by Library Pages. In another instance, a Clerk at a library serving a largely Hispanic community told OIG that her status as the only bilingual staff member made it a practical necessity for her to perform tasks outside her job description on a regular basis. One branch manager told us that “many positions perform many roles,” which in some cases results in personnel spending time on activities that could be done more cost-effectively by employees holding other titles.

CPL’s commendable intention to take a more strategic approach to meeting community needs through a tailored staffing plan still leaves considerable room for improvement. In this report, we make a number of recommendations to enhance the design and implementation of the staffing plan, including involving stakeholders such as library employees, as well as board and community members, in redesigning the plan to utilize measurable factors and ensure that libraries are appropriately staffed to meet local needs.

CPL agreed with some OIG recommendations, stating that it will revise its staffing plan to better align the factors considered with available data, and will develop a policy that codifies application of the plan. Management noted that the staffing plan is not fully implemented, but that CPL seeks to implement it incrementally as vacancies and reassignments permit. CPL disagreed with OIG’s recommendation to disseminate the plan to all library employees, and declined to involve the library board and community members in redesigning the plan, stating that senior staff regularly “reports up and down the organizational structure” regarding staffing needs and strategies. As CPL works to improve its staffing plan, we encourage periodic consideration of how changes in community composition and demand for services may affect the staffing needs of each library.