Teton County Library

Oscar Gittemeier, the most recent former library director, welcomes a patron back to Teton County Library in August, when the library reopened its doors after being closed to in-person service earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. Gittemeier left the library, and his departure, as well as a string of incidents that followed it, has people up in arms about library management. Some want confirmation he was not removed because of his gender identity.

Years of frustration linked to the Teton County Library bubbled to the surface Monday when the public unleashed complaints alleging mismanagement by the county’s human resources director, as well as the library board and County Commission.

The barrage of criticism came at the beginning of a joint meeting of the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners when elected officials allow public comments on items not on their agenda.

In October, most recent Teton County Library director Oscar Gittemeier departed — the reason why has not been made public — after serving just three months.

Several commenters questioned whether his departure was a result of his sexuality.

His departure, which some Monday referred to as a "firing," was the marquee moment in a fall of upheaval at the library. It accompanied the Teton County Board of County Commissioners' sudden audit of library finances, spurred in part by a suggestion to look into a county takeover of the library’s budget and, more recently, the board’s decision to remove Dail Barbour, a former commissioner and the only former library staff member on the library board, from her seat.

All three events, coupled with concerns about the library board, which has been implicated in Barbour’s ouster, had commenters up in arms.

Dawn Jenkin, who served as library director for a year before quitting in 2019, said that, as director, she looked into library law in all 50 states and learned that public libraries share the same legal foundation: They “are funded by local governments but are prohibited from being directly managed by them. This ensures a continuum of library service through changes in political regime and funding support.

“Public libraries are guided by these statutes expressly to prevent what is happening in Teton County,” she said.

Read the full story about the complaints in this week's News&Guide, which is available on news stands countywide for $1. You can also read online at JHNewsAndGuide.com.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

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