Today was the first day in four days that West Seattle didn’t have a Seattle Public Library branch closed for what the system called “staffing shortages.” Several branches around the city were closed on each of three days – Friday, including the Southwest branch; Saturday, including the Delridge branch; and Sunday, including the West Seattle (Admiral) branch. We followed up as promised, to ask if the shortages were the result of COVID, or something else. Here’s what SPL spokesperson Laura Gentry told WSB:
The Library has experienced low staffing numbers recently due to an increase in sick calls, an increase in vacation leaves around the holidays, and an increase in usage of family medical leave.
We do have an ongoing hiring effort to staff back up after receiving restored funding to do so. However, our first round of hiring resulted in several internal promotions, which has led to another round of hiring that requires additional orientation and training time. Even as we do become more fully staffed, it’s difficult to predict the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on our staff.
We do try to rotate which branches are closed due to low staffing in order to not impact certain neighborhoods more often than others. However, we also try to keep certain high-use branches open every day, if possible. These branches are often located near major transit lines and are geographically spread throughout the city to ensure coverage in all areas of Seattle.
We are currently taking a closer look at this approach to see if there is a way we can create more consistency for our patrons while we are in this situation.
West Seattle has four SPL branches, mapped here.