Library to look at staffing in comprehensive plan

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Library clerk Debby Fowler of Huntingburg, left, attends to Marilyn Gunselman of Jasper while Cheryl Culbertson of Dubois waits in line at the Huntingburg Public Library on Tuesday. 


HUNTINGBURG — A service bell sits on the circulation desk at Huntingburg Public Library, waiting for a patron to ring it and summon one of a few staff members who work at a given time.

The bell is necessary because most staff members play multiple roles at the library, taking them away from the circulation desk when no one is waiting to check out books.

The dual roles hold the library back in areas other than the circulation desk. While many libraries have a full-time cataloguer, for example, at the Huntingburg Library, cataloguer Beth Kippenbrock is also the adult services librarian. The library director also ends up working the circulation desk or running programs regularly.

“It’s frustrating,” said Library Director Angie Haake. “It’s very frustrating, but it’s an opportunity to grow, too.”

Growth will be a focus for the library as it embarks on a comprehensive plan process in the coming months. At its January meeting, the Huntingburg Public Library Board hired Kimberly Bolan & Associates of Carmel for $12,900 to lead the comprehensive-planning process. The staffing situation will be a main focus of the process, as will repurposing some library space and collecting information about what the library’s patrons want.

Library clerk Debby Fowler of Huntingburg works the front desk at the Huntingburg Public Library on Tuesday. 

Board President Casey Lindeman hopes the comprehensive plan will give library leaders an idea of what to do over the next few years. Today’s libraries are used for more than just books, he said, and the board wants to make sure the library is meeting the community’s needs.

“[We want] to figure out what people want,” he said. “What is most important for this library and our community?”

Library staff are confident that patrons will express interest in additional programming at the library. Recently, Haake said, one of the library’s two children’s librarians retired, leading to several children’s programs being cut.

Adult patrons have also expressed interest in additional programs. Kippenbrock said she’d love to be able to provide that now, but between her cataloguing work — she estimates that takes 80 percent of her time — and working the circulation desk, she doesn’t have the time.

“I just don’t have time for the prep work,” Kippenbrock said.

Currently, the library has a staff of seven. Haake is the one full-time employee, with five part-time library staff and a janitor working with her. Three of the part-time employees work 25 hours a week, and two work less than 20.

Children's Librarian Shannon Werne places a book on the shelf at the Huntingburg Public Library on Tuesday.

The Indiana State Library tracks library staffing throughout the state, counting employees according to full-time equivalents. According to the state’s 2017 statistics, the most recent available, the Huntingburg Library has 4.43 full-time equivalents. That number dropped at the end of 2018 when one of the children’s librarians retired. To compare, The Jasper Public Library has 13.4 full-time equivalents, the Ferdinand Branch has 6.9 and the Dubois Branch has 5.25.

Ideally, Haake said, she’d like to have three people in the library at all times, including herself. Right now, though, there are usually two, and sometimes one.

Lindeman said staffing is on the minds of board members.

“It’s trying to figure out how, at peak times, [to get] the library staffed to meet those needs, and when it’s not peak time, that it’s staffed accordingly then as well,” he said.

He’s hoping the comprehensive plan will help figure out the right staffing configuration.

Library clerk Debby Fowler of Huntingburg processes book transfers at the Huntingburg Public Library on Tuesday.

Although staff members do feel stretched thin, they provide a lot of programs. In 2018, the library offered over 200 children’s programs, though that number has dropped since a children’s librarian retired. The library also offered 69 adult programs in 2018.

“I’m very proud of our library,” Haake said.

Beyond staffing, the comprehensive plan will look at revamping the library’s available space to better serve the community’s needs. The board has been discussing remodeling the Indiana Room on the library’s first floor to provide more seating options for patrons. The comprehensive plan will also look at other options for space configurations and ask patrons how they want to use the space.

Overall, library staff and board members are looking to the comprehensive plan to guide their future actions.

“I think it’ll give us a pretty good insight into where we need to go and grow over the next three to five years,” Lindeman said. “And hopefully keep people coming to the library.”

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