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Library of Congress Offers Buyouts to Staffers

The Library of Congress will lose nearly 10 percent of its workforce by Nov. 3.

In a sweeping cost-cutting move, the Library will offer targeted buyouts to 349 employees through a voluntary early retirement program, according to internal documents obtained by Roll Call.

The staff cuts come in response to the legislative branch budget passed by the House on July 22.

The bill would slash $53 million from the Library’s budget, bringing its total funding level to $575 million. It’s the largest single cut to any legislative branch agency.

The agreement, which the Library reached today with its three unions, would cap severance payments at $25,000 and offer voluntary early retirement to eligible workers over the age of 50.

According to Saul Schniderman, president of the Library of Congress Professional Guild, about 1,000 of the Library’s nearly 4,000 employees will be eligible to retire.

“It’s an older workforce at the Library,” he said.

Reductions will hit all levels and divisions, from librarians and copywriters to management and administrative staff, but the Library hopes to reshape its workforce to provide the same services in a leaner environment.

To this end, the Library provided the unions with ranges of employee losses that could be absorbed by division.

The Library did not respond to a request for the breakdown, but there is some speculation that the Congressional Research Service will be among the hardest hit.

The CRS budget was cut by $6.9 million, to $104 million.

“It’s an unfortunate situation because these are people that really love the Library and spent their lives and careers here,” said Schniderman, who represents about 1,500 workers. “On the other hand, it’s better to be offered a voluntary separation than be the victim of a furlough, so in that sense it’s better.

Retirement counseling covering everything from how an annuity works to how the buyout money will be deposited will be available to employees.

Still, Library workers will have to make a decision quickly. Those interested have until Oct. 3 to submit an application, and the 349 that ultimately accept the early retirement must be gone by Nov. 3.

“There’s no doubt the counseling will help these people,” Schniderman said. “But these are people who spent their entire careers here and they’re having to make an extremely important decision in a very short amount of time. It’s tough.”

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