FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Library’s closures aren’t just virus-related

(Sign on door of West Seattle branch Sunday, photographed by Gina)

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.

8 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Library's closures aren't just virus-related"

  • Katherine L January 11, 2022 (6:41 am)

    Do they publish somewhere online which libraries will rotate closed and when? All I can find is the general hours information.

  • A. Reader January 11, 2022 (9:22 am)

    I went to the website to look at job openings, but it appears that there are not any posted aside from two lead librarian positions. Maybe they’ve been filled?

    • WSB January 11, 2022 (11:49 am)

      I noticed that too and am asking a followup – I was going to end the story by linking their job-listings page but only saw one opening listed.

  • Brian January 11, 2022 (9:37 am)

    Hmmm wonder what could be happening nationwide that would cause people to use FMLA to care for sick family members? Gotta be something obvious but what could it be?

    • Sarah January 12, 2022 (9:06 am)

      Well since a high percentage of people in Seattle have been vaccinated, and there are many having side effects to the shots. It could be due to reactions to the shot. 

  • John January 11, 2022 (11:10 am)

    Unexpected SPS and after-school closures have had a ripple effect on library staffing. 

  • Rainier John January 12, 2022 (11:23 am)

    There is usually not a way to predict when or where people will call in sick and create a pre-arranged schedule.  Check the library’s homepage for notices for if and where branches are closed that day.  It will be in the red banner across the top.

  • Rainier John January 12, 2022 (11:27 am)

    To me it sounds pretty obvious from the library’s statement that it IS pandemic related.  Don’t know why the original blog poster missed that.

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