Remember when Teton County Library opened its new wing in 2013?

Hundreds of people packed the lobby to share a chili lunch, tours and live music.

During the ribbon-cutting, Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim praised the expansion, which was finished on time and under budget.

“As we look around at this beautiful new addition and remodel, it reflects the spirit of partnership at many levels,” Vogelheim said at the ribbon-cutting.

He singled out Dail Barbour, then facilities manager, and Deb Adams, then director, for their active management of the project.

“Back in 2008, when the library staff, led by Dail Barbour and Deb Adams, brought their $9 million project request, they had done their homework and brought a well thought-out plan,” Vogelhiem said at the time. “The library project was recognized as a community priority, which the voters validated with overwhelming support.”

Remember when the library had flexible work schedules that allowed parents to raise children, employees to hold second jobs to afford housing, commuters to match work schedules to START bus schedules, individuals to attend church and other untold benefits to employee wellbeing? Yes church. The library is open seven days a week beyond a typical 9-to-5 work schedule.

Remember when the library pioneered remote working options – before a pandemic, research and Fortune 500 companies underscored the upsides? Remember when the library had direct oversight of technology to ensure privacy of patron records?

Remember when library directors lasted longer than a year or a few months? Remember when the library packed the Center for the Arts with curious minds ready to absorb inspiration and knowledge from guitar-strumming children’s authors, poet laureates and the likes of American historian David McCullough?

Well most of that could be history as the Teton County Library Board and Teton County Board of County Commissioners march relentlessly toward efficiency, conformity and downsizing.

But where’s the community benefit in hollowing out a community gem? What’s efficient about spending tax dollars to constantly recruit new directors who are driven out almost as soon as they arrive? Where’s the savings in spending tax dollars to fight a lawsuit that could have been avoided if the county had afforded its Teton County Library Board appointee Dail Barbour notice of a meeting, allowed her to hear evidence presented against her and given her a chance to present her side of the story?

Such a secretive and punitive approach shreds public trust in our elected officials and their oversight of a beloved institution.

Members of the community showed overwhelming support for a robust library when they enthusiastically voted for its expansion not all that long ago.

The county’s own employee culture survey, which did not include the library, shows low morale and engagement across county departments. Lift up county departments and restore the library to its former status as an excellent community center and service, as well as an attractive workplace.

By the News&Guide’s editorial board: Johanna Love, Rebecca Huntington, Kevin Olson and Adam Meyer.

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