Pratt Library Workers Intend to Form a Union

Janice K. Johnson


Masetsaba Woodland, a librarian in the Central Branch’s Collection Development Department, says she and her colleagues have been organizing since May 2021. “To have it come to this point, where we’ve gathered support, where we are ready to be public to launch, I was buzzing all day,” Woodland said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Woodland has worked for the Pratt for the last eight years, but the connection has been lifelong. As a kid, she frequented the Walbrook Branch in her neighborhood; in high school, she took the bus downtown to the Central Branch. “The Pratt has always been my library,” Woodland said. “I’ve always loved the library, it’s been a place of safety and comfort and just magic for me.”

That early spark seems to motivate her organizing. “I know that it is this great place and I want it to be great for its employees,” she said. “And by that it can be better for its patrons.”

For many library workers, connecting patrons to the resources and research materials they came in for is gratifying. When Woodland previously worked in the Information Services department, which staffs the public computer center, she helped people edit their resumes, make spreadsheets and slideshows, and even witnessed a woman finish an online degree program. “Every day, she would come in and work on the same computer,” Woodland recalled. “Before I left the department, she graduated. And she was so just grateful that we were there to help her, that we were patient with her because she wasn’t a strong computer user. But she was able to finish her degree on the computer because we were able to help her every day.”

Although many library staff members work with the public all the time, Woodland says that they often don’t have a say on changes that impact their ability to serve the public. She mentions that after the Central Branch’s $115-million renovation, the big information desk that visitors could easily spot upon entry was replaced by a small podium and a new “roving” model to greet patrons. Staff voiced concerns, but the new plan went forward anyway. “We said that the patrons aren’t going to know where to find us. They’re gonna go to the circulation desk, who’s already understaffed and stressed out—they’re gonna wander around, they’re gonna get frustrated and leave,” she said. “That’s just one instance where we were the ones that were working the floor, so we could tell how our patrons interacted with the space, [but] we weren’t heard.”



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