Teton County Library

Similar to many for-profit businesses, Teton County Library is struggling to maintain standard hours due to a worker shortage.

The library is closed Sundays because staff numbers are low, and that looks unlikely to change anytime soon.

Interim Director Deb Adams previously said she hoped hiring for the open positions would take about two months, but the workforce crunch seems to have waylaid that goal.

“It’s going to take us longer than two months to fill those positions and get ourselves fully staffed in order to reopen,” she told the library board Thursday.

Based on the number of full-time positions in the library’s budget (34.25) and the current number of hours being worked, the equivalent of 25.75 full-time positions, the library is down eight and a half full-time staffers, or by about a quarter of what it needs to operate.

Until those positions can be filled, service will be limited, including keeping the reference desk closed, Adams told the board. To bring library services back in line with the norm, hours will have to be added on weekday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

Some of the library’s struggles can be directly attributed to COVID-19. Hiring was slow-walked or put on hold for most positions during the height of the pandemic because managers weren’t sure how long services would be interrupted.

Now that the library is primed to fully reopen, managers are scrambling to fill positions, but workforce shortages and a lack of housing are making it tough.

“Right now our applicant pool is the same as everyone else’s in Jackson,” Adams said Thursday. “I’d rather not say the actual number because it’s depressing.”

Some positions, like one in the Youth Services Department, are set to be filled soon, but the dearth of applicants makes a full reopening uncertain. At least one member of the public said the library’s past struggles were in part to blame.

Jordan Rich, a former employee who wrote that she used to work the Sunday shift that is now on pause, said that while Jackson continues to have a worker shortage, the library will be shortchanged because many other jobs pay better.

She also blamed the library board’s unwillingness to make some of the changes asked for in late 2020 when public outcry against perceived mismanagement reached its apex.

“I expect the library will see more staff departures as the library board continues to obfuscate their hiring process for a new director and seem unwilling to make changes that previous staff and the public have asked for,” she wrote.

The hiring process Rich referred to in her May 26 letter concluded with the hiring of new director Kip Roberson, who starts next month. Roberson will inherit the staffing problems, and one of his first tasks will be steering the library back toward full employment.

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.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

Sounds good. I'm fine with things being limited by staffing shortages.

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