The Provincial Library of Malaga restricts the loan of books due to lack of personnel

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Sign at the access to the library advising of the suspension of loans. / Tenllado

Retirements and uncovered leaves leave the center with only three of the eleven assistants needed to offer this service

Regina Sotorrío

«Are you coming to get a book? He will have to come back tomorrow morning ”, informs the security guard of the Provincial Library of Malaga while pointing to a sign that hangs from the concierge. “Due to the lack of staff, the loan service will be closed. Sorry for the inconvenience, “it reads. The center has been forced to restrict loans to a single shift (morning or afternoon) due to the high shortage of assistants. As this newspaper has learned, of the eleven who should work in the library, there are currently only three.

The State Public Library, in its provisional headquarters for 27 years on Avenida de la Europa, has been dragging a personnel problem for months after the retirement of three workers and several long-term sick leave that have not been covered by the Junta de Andalucía, responsible for the management of this state-owned institution. The situation has become more critical in recent days due to new temporary disabilities that have made it unfeasible to provide a service for which, under normal conditions, four people are needed in the room. Now, however, there are only two on one shift and one or none (depending on breaks or own business) on the other.

It must be taken into account that a good part of the funds are in the deposit, which makes the assistant have to go down to find the book that the user requests and upload it to the counter. In addition, it must attend a consultation room with fourteen computers and the children’s room. All in a library that receives an average of 500 visitors every day and with a monthly volume of loans that exceeds 4,800 records.

With only three assistants available, the State Public Library has chosen to concentrate loans on the shift in which there are two workers. This week they are in the morning, so it is only possible to check out books at that time. In the afternoon, returns can only be made in a box placed in the concierge, so that the staff can put the copies in their place the next morning. Next week it will be the opposite, and so on until the vacancies are filled.

The Malaga Provincial Library has 23,322 registered users and last year, with all the limitations imposed by the pandemic, the center received 65,705 visits. It is the Andalusian public library that generates the most activity, with reading clubs, writing workshops, exhibitions and presentations. But without the necessary assistants, the library leaves one of its priority functions half-way: lending books, a service that welcomes hundreds of students, people without resources and fans in general to reading. There are the data: in 2020, even with the closure forced by the coronavirus, the library offered 42,227 individual loans and 994 group loans.

The library makes a complaint form available to the user so that they can send their complaints to the management.

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