Staff shortage Tuesday forces early closure of Fountain Library
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the third time this year, a staff shortage has caused a branch of the Pikes Peak Library District in El Paso County to close early, but not because of worker shortages common during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest situation happened Tuesday evening at the PPLD's Fountain branch, resulting in closing that library at 5 p.m. instead of the usual 7 p.m.
PPLD officials said that the closure happened because of an employee calling in sick at the end of the day, at a time when finding a replacement is difficult.
"We are very lucky in the sense that we have never had a situation where people don't want to work for the library," said Soumya Gollapalli, the PPLD's talent management supervisor. "For any job opening we have, there are a good number of applicants. We have a great workplace environment and most people want to stay here."
Similar closures have happened at the High Prairie and Ute pass library branches.
During the pandemic, PPLD officials said, employees who formerly would continue to work while sick, are now encouraged to stay at home until they recover and avoid spreading illness to others.
Officials also said that the district is only ten employees short of a full staff of 420 for its 17 facilities -- with the deficit largely due to retirements during the pandemic -- and there has been no significant decrease in people applying for openings.
Pay has not been an issue either, officials added, because they recently started a new pay evaluation structure that considers how much employees at other library districts are paid and raises the amount for PPLD employees to an equitable level.
Finally, the district said that the closures have not brought complaints from the public because it has a system in place to quickly notify staff and the public of emergency changes to operations; the district decided at 4:40 p.m. to close the library at 5 p.m.
The amount of staff required to maintain operations at a library depends on its size, location and number of programs offered.