For the second time in less than a year, Teton County Library has an interim director.

In a letter dated Nov. 18 Director Dawn Jenkin informed the Library Board she would be departing.

“It is with great regret,” she wrote, “that I must inform you of my resignation from the position of Director of the Teton County Library.”

In her letter, Jenkin told the board that her last day would be Jan. 17 and that she would be “supporting the Board and the library’s staff in this transition.”

On Friday, just one day after the latest Library Board meeting and four after sending in her letter, Jenkin had her last day at the library. She worked about 10 months.

Library Board Chairman John Hebberger Jr. confirmed the board wanted Jenkin to leave earlier than her planned January departure. He declined to be interviewed, citing travel, but did answer News&Guide’s questions via email Tuesday.

“The board simply felt that there was limited value in stretching out the transition,” he wrote.

Hebberger said the hiring process for a new library director had not begun. In the meantime Sid Stanfill is reprising his role as interim director, which he held from October 2018 following the retirement of Valerie Maginnis until February when Jenkin started.

Stanfill is a seasoned library pro, having served as library director for the Sublette County Public Library in Pinedale. Hebberger said that having Stanfill available to fill Jenkin’s role was part of why the board felt comfortable with her not finishing out the time she outlined in her resignation letter.

Jenkin did not offer a reason for leaving in the short letter. Instead she told board members she “enjoyed working together to find solutions to the library’s challenges.”

Though she did not enumerate the projects she enjoyed working on, library staff and the board have tackled several large issues in her tenure, including the creation of a video surveillance policy to govern on-site security cameras and an ongoing discussion about the library’s shared information technology agreement with Teton County.

When reached Monday, Jenkin declined to comment.

A short transition

Since Jenkin left following the board’s most recent meeting, its members have not had the chance to discuss hiring a replacement.

“Based on past experience a search process is likely to be a multi-month process,” Hebberger wrote.

He couldn’t point to any specific skills or areas of expertise a potential replacement would have, instead saying that the experience level would be similar to what they looked for in hiring Jenkin.

The board will look for “primarily: strong management abilities, experience in handling roughly comparably sized organizations, effective communication skills, and certainly highly desired will be long experience in the library science field,” he wrote.

Contentious from the start

Jenkin’s tenure was brief, and the process that brought her to Jackson was contentious. Former library employees criticized Hebberger and the board during the search for Maginnis’ replacement that ultimately led to Jenkin’s hiring.

At least three former employees sent letters to the board asking the search be reopened because only two finalists were chosen, Jenkin and Alexandra Eccles, who was fired by the Lewiston (Idaho) City Library in April 2018, the Lewiston Tribune reported. The Tribune cited staff turnover and dwindling collections as reasons the Lewiston library’s board placed her on administrative leave, though Eccles denied the allegations.

The board chose Jenkin over Eccles, and Hebberger pushed back against complaints about the hiring process.

“The former employees in particular have not been privy to ... the full process,” he told the Jackson Hole Daily in December 2018. “We were pretty pleased with the fact that we had a pretty reasonable number of applicants, and a couple we felt good enough about to bring them here.”

Including Deb Adams’ retirement in 2015, Jenkin is the third director to leave the library in the past four years. Hebberger dismissed the idea her departure could have negative effects on staff morale, saying it was his “understanding that both in-state and nationally such turnover has become rather common.”

It is true that library directors are quite old, with 45% of directors being above the age of 65 in 2015 and close to retirement, according to research from the University of Louisiana. However, Jenkin gave no indication that her departure is a retirement.

Instead, she expressed gratitude for her time in Jackson.

“I thank the Board for the opportunity of serving this amazing community,” she wrote.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

(1) comment

Tim Rieser

“Quite old” being 65? Shame on you young man!

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