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Library Bequest-Funded Storyteller to Quit

Chuck Ashton, whose salary was funded by a bequest to the Library Board, terminated his contract this week.

Long-time retired librarian and story teller Chuck Ashton will perform his last storytime on June 10. The money from the $225,000 library bequest used to fund his salary will still be used to perform other community literacy programs, according to Redwood City spokesperson Malcolm Smith.

Using part of the $225,000 January library bequest to fund Ashton's salary has sparked action amongst some residents, who have formed the "Committee to Save Schaberg Library." Members say they would rather see the money used to extend 's hours rather than for programming, which could be done by eager volunteers.

"We urgently renew our request that the funds be used to fully restore hours at the Schaberg branch and to stock its shelves to the standard maintained at the other branches," wrote Redwood City resident Sharon Levin in her on Patch.

City officials that they do not want to spend these one-time funds for ongoing operations, such as extending Schaberg's hours.

“Consistent with our fiscal guidelines, grants, gifts or other one-time funds will not be used for ongoing operational costs,” Mayor Jeff Ira said in an email to concerned residents.

The Library Foundation still has discretion over the funds and will use it for the following programs:

  • increased story times
  • a card campaign for children
  • expanded family author programs for schools
  • an increase in the number of preschools for the Traveling Storytime program
  • other such community-wide Library literacy programs

“What [Ashton] provided was supplemental,” Smith said. “The remaining money will continue to be used for intended purposes.”

TJ May 27, 2011 at 01:11 AM
Just a clarification: we are the Committee to Save Schaberg Library. Follow our blog at www.saveschaberg.org or find us on Facebook: Committe to Save Schaberg Library. And, even though Mayor Ira says "“Consistent with our fiscal guidelines, grants, gifts or other one-time funds will not be used for ongoing operational costs" no one has been able to provide this information in written form as proof that the bequest cannot be used for operating costs. We're still waiting for that. Tanja Vierra Member, Committee to Save Schaberg Library
Sharon Levin May 27, 2011 at 01:31 AM
Also, to add to my co-committee member's comment - while we would absolutely LOVE to see Schaberg's hours extended and the materials bought equitably for each branch (almost every time I go to put a new book on hold I see copies purchased for Shores and Main but almost never for Schaberg) our first battle is the survival of Schaberg itself. It is a VERY realistic possibility that this branch will close and the bequest funds would keep Schaberg going for two more years, giving time for fundraising and for the economy to possibly turn around.
Sharon Levin May 27, 2011 at 01:33 AM
To keep my comments from being too long, I am adding another one in answer to Malcolm Smith's comment, What [Ashton] provided was supplemental,” Smith said. “The remaining money will continue to be used for intended purposes.” Chuck Ashton's contract was for $40,000/year for 5 years, so given that is $200,000 of a $225,000 or $250,000 bequest, how is that 'supplemental'?
Bud May 27, 2011 at 05:13 AM
These funds were obviously mis-managed in the first place ... Bravo Mr. Library Director ! Paying Chuck out of this pot was a huge mistake, cutting Schaberg's hours and no other branches hours was a huge mistake ... Hey .. we all need to be good at something though don't we ? Bottom line is the other branches need to share in the budget issues. I want to see the other branches take some cuts to help restore Schabergs hours ... PICKING ON SCHABERG AND NO OTHER BRANCHES IS A CROCK ... GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER ! With the way all the idiots run the library system ... it's no big surprise why Sharon Levin quit the Library Board . People like Sharon who actually think with their heads can only take so much of this bs ... Glad to see Chuck go ... I really am
Sharon Levin May 27, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Hi Bud, I do appreciate your support for Schaberg, it is a treasure of a library. I do believe these funds were not used wisely from the beginning, but I do believe there was an above board, honest way to keep Chuck around if people wanted to (and Chuck's storytimes ARE fun). The Friends of the Library is very generous in funding programs. Have Chuck Ashton charge $50 an hour (yes, more than he's charging now) BUT bill for the actual 30 minute storytime vs. the two hour minimum the Foundation and Library Director agreed to. If Chuck is doing (for example) 7 storytimes/week, at $25 per storytime it would be $175/week, if he worked 50 weeks a year, it would be $8750 annually. A much more reasonable number and probably doable for Friends and definitely doable for the Foundation.
Susan Swope May 27, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I don't want to argue about how the funds should be used. I would just like to point out that there is substantial time spent in preparing to tell a story. I don't think Mr. Ashton just shows up, picks a book off the shelf, and begins to read. It takes hours to learn and rehearse a story in order to tell, rather than just read, it. He may put in 4 or 5 hours preparing that 30 minutes. That said, I wish the Committee luck in finding funding to keep Schaberg open in these tough times. It's also sad that Mr. Ashton has been put in a position where he (apparently) felt he needed to resign because of the controversy. Worthy, much needed, programs are being cut by just about everyone at every level--city, county, state, federal--and it is heartbreaking. Until the economy rebounds, hard decisions will continue to be necessary.
Liya Murphy May 27, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I've been going to Schaberg library since I was too short to look over the counter. It is very dear to my heart. But I support the use of funds for storytime. My son is 22 months old and we LIVE for storytime. I'd love lots more - they are always crowded. I know my son would love more room to move around. Not only that, this is valuable free programming - music classes for toddlers are $20 for a 45 minute class. multiply that by 25 kids and a 30 minute story time is worth about $350. I feel like the library is putting money towards libraries in areas where people do not have access or money to get to books and storytimes & music. That's really good for kids and all people. Let's be honest - this is about a library in a rich area of town with people to fight for it. It's not about what services are actually needed by the other half of town. Just my opinion.
Eggbert May 27, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Oh, those pesky facts, and their knack for dismantling a good story.
Sharon Levin May 27, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Our two poorest libraries would be Fair Oaks and Schaberg. Given that he does not speak Spanish, Chuck does not do Storytimes at Fair Oaks. He does two per week at Schaberg. This is NOT reaching the poorer communities. Also, I don't want to get into picky stuff, much as I have enjoyed storytime, I have heard the same stories and songs from Mr. Ashton over the years and yes, often he reads from a book. We CAN fill these times with talented volunteers and the Committee has offered to train that pool. Travelling Storytime (as far as I know) ONLY uses volunteers to do outreach to the preschools and they are a very, VERY successful program. How is it benefiting a community to shut down the ONLY library on the west side of El Camino. A library that most directly serves Roosevelt school, not a school with a rich, privileged demographic. I do understand that storytelling can take prep - I have many friends who are professional storytellers. Every one of them has told me that this is an exorbitant yearly amount.
Stacie Chan (Editor) May 27, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Hi all, Malcolm Smith from the city is getting back to me with line items on exactly what the bequest money was spent. Stay tuned!
TJ May 31, 2011 at 08:53 PM
You can support the funding of storytime but how many storytimes can you hope to have with very limited hours and the possibility of the branch closing altogether? No one disputes the value of storytimes or Mr. Ashton's expertise, we are disputing the exorbitant amount he is paid to do this, when, as Sharon pointed out, there are MANY volunteers willing to do it and have been doing so at other branches funded by fundraising efforts. Why is essentially "found" money being used in this manner when it would be more effectively used for operating costs for the next two years while we fundraise and raise awareness durng that time? Does this not make sense? Miss Carol, a paid librarian on-staff at Schaberg for many years did the storytimes very effectively and was very popular and I am quite sure she didn't need 4-5 hours to prepare for 30 minutes of actively reading the story and engaging the children. Please....
Sharon Levin May 31, 2011 at 09:19 PM
I'd like to add to this, that if one were to look at books being ordered - while most are ordered for Main and most especially Redwood Shores, very few are ordered for Schaberg. If you are worried about funding going to those who need it the most - look more closely at Shores (arguably the library in the wealthiest part of town). Schaberg doesn't even have a librarian on site anymore. Miss Carrol, whom Tanja mentions, was moved out to Shores.
Enquiring Mind June 23, 2011 at 04:01 AM
Bud, the original bequest was for $150,000 and was given to the library in 1997. The funds now total $225,000. You call that mis-managed? Schaberg's hours were cut because their usagee numbers were the lowest of the four libraries in the Redwood City Library System. Get a grip, Bud, check your facts before spewing your vitriol in the future.
Enquiring Mind June 23, 2011 at 04:12 AM
This was a bequest to the Redwood City Public Library. These were not and are not taxpayer funds. The funds are under the pervue of the Redwood City Library Foundation. Why should the City provide line items?

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