The End of Something Else

Bookshelves at a library

As some of you may know, I have been working part-time as an “Adult Literacy Coordinator” in the Echo Park branch of the Los Angeles Public Library for the last few years. I recruit and manage teams of volunteers to work as tutors for neighborhood folks who want to read, write, and speak English better. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, as I’m sure you agree. Why would you be staring at this blog if reading in itself were not a primary value in your life? And I work in a neighborhood that I’ve loved since I lived there myself forty years ago, and which I’ve made the setting of parts of my novels. Then as now, it was a hardscrabble, mostly poor, and always beautiful community, where rich and poor, gay and straight, artist and laborer, and folks of every race and culture mingled, met, and sometimes crossed their own boundaries to set themselves free. I have been happy to be a formal part of that process.

I’ll be leaving that job in the next few weeks, though no one knows exactly when. (It depends on when the new employees are actually interviewed and hired.) I want to stay, my bosses want me to stay, and my colleagues want me to stay. So why I am leaving? Here is the letter I wrote to my work mates in an effort to outline the situation:

This is just to say that I will have to be leaving the Adult Literacy Program sometime within the next two or three months. I am not quitting or resigning, nor am I being fired or laid off. The circumstances are complicated, so let me explain….

Until about a year ago, most Literacy Coordinators were contractors on the payroll of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. But LFLA needed to restructure its operations, and the library wanted coordinators to have the benefits accorded to all civil service employees in Los Angeles. So they met with City Personnel and chose a civil service classification into which they could move the program.

Because of the strict civil service rules, devised during a time when corruption, nepotism, and patronage were rampant in municipal employment, all of us had to resign and re-apply to our own jobs, along with anyone else who might be interested. To keep the program operating in the meantime, we were granted “emergency appointments,” which are time-limited. Many civil service systems have “grandfather clauses” so that people who are already working in a position that is to be absorbed into the system will be brought in without having to re-apply. Apparently, Los Angeles eliminated grandfather clauses a few years ago.

The new job classification requires a bachelor’s degree or five years of experience in an essentially identical job. I have been working here only two and a half years, and I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree forty-two years ago, because I left in my last term to go to work. (That life thing, you know….)

City Personnel refused to consider parallel experience that I had gained in other jobs, jobs requiring the same skills and actions but not matching the job description precisely. I will not be permitted to re-apply, even though I have done what my colleagues and supervisors say is a pretty good job.

So I shall have to leave the best job I’ve ever had, and the best people I’ve ever worked with—colleagues, supervisors, branch staff, volunteers, learners, and all. And Echo Park itself, where I used to live in my younger, wilder days. I will miss you all, though I will visit now and then. You have all made my days immeasurably better, every day.

I thank you all for being part of my life during these last few years.

So if anybody has any leads on jobs, full or part-time, that a literary old fart like me might do well in, let me know. (I also have some experience in putting on community events, since that’s part of both my current job and my efforts to market my novels.)

Life is full of changes. The plot, as they say, thickens….


Rick Risemberg