Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg to share library director

PINELLAS PARK — City officials here say they did a little out-of-the-box thinking when hiring a new library director — they borrowed one of St. Petersburg's librarians.

Angela Pietras, the head librarian at St. Petersburg's Main Library at 3745 Ninth Ave. N will run the daily operations at the Pinellas Park Library. Pinellas Park will pay St. Petersburg for Pietras' services. The arrangement is for 90 days as a test. If it works, the deal could become permanent.

Pietras started Monday at the Pinellas Park Library, 7770 52nd St. N. Pinellas Park will pay St. Petersburg $30,000 for the 90 days. Pinellas Park's salary range for a library director is about $61,000 to $101,000, not including benefits.

"Everything our library director is supposed to be doing, she will be doing," Pinellas Park City Manager Mike Gustafson said.

At least in the short term, the goal is less about saving money and more about seeing if the two cities can work together, streamline operations and provide Pinellas Park residents with more access to services.

St. Petersburg has many more library employees than Pinellas Park does, Gustafson said. Their expertise comes with the deal, he said.

"It's the available services," he said. "The real benefit is having the professional staff handling that one position."

Gustafson said the deal is similar to one his city has with Kenneth City. Pinellas Park provides that town with a part-time building inspector, who can call on others in the Pinellas Park building department if needed. So, in a way, he said, Kenneth City has all of Pinellas Park's building department at its service. Similarly, Pinellas Park will have St. Petersburg's entire library staff.

St. Petersburg city administrator Tish Elston said the short-term goal is to help the smaller city fill a position, but the ultimate goal is sustaining both systems.

The deal might be a springboard for other collaborations between the two cities, she said. Pietras has gotten a temporary salary bump, she added.

Gustafson said he got the idea when his wife, Laurel, was director of the St. Petersburg library system.

"It started as a joke, kind of. (I'd say) can't you guys be the library director for us? The more I thought about it, the more I thought it makes sense," the city manager said.

When his wife decided to retire just before Thanksgiving, the idea became viable because any conflict of interest disappeared, he said. He spoke with Elston and they cobbled together a temporary agreement that could become permanent.

"It's way out-of-the-box" thinking, he said.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

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