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Libraries, museums weigh sharing internal work

Jan 24, 2014 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer

Maintenance and tech support positions are under discussion.

Members of the county library and museums boards are discussing the possibility of partnering to share resources. The issue was aired during Fremont County Library Board's January meeting in Lander.

Tom Duncan and Carol Chidsey of the Fremont County Museums Board attended the library board meeting to further the discussion of sharing employees between the entities --an idea presented to the museums board by library board vice chairwoman Jackie Meeker in November.

The original idea surfaced from the library board in hopes of sharing a maintenance employee between the library and museums in Lander.

This month, however, Duncan proposed starting with a shared information-technology employee instead.

Duncan suggested the boards could work out a plan to share the libraries' IT director, Jenny Wills, and speculated on the possibility of having the museums board possibly pay 10 or 20 percent of Wills's salary in exchange for her time at the museums.

"It's hard to suggest, as I don't know what is involved in it," Duncan said. "These ideas have not gone through the museums board yet. I just wanted to see if there was any reaction to see if it was worthwhile to go through."

Library board chairman Don Newton asked Duncan where the museums board was with its director search, and when he thought one would be in place.

"We are interviewing," Duncan replied. "Your guess is as good as mine (for the hiring date)."

Chidsey expressed her willingness work with the library board. She said stated the museums board is putting "in a lot of money" to bring someone from the outside in to work on technical issues.

"It would be a tremendous benefit for us (to share such resources)," Chidsey said.

Newton his board was open to discussing possibilities. However, both Newton and library systems director Tracy Cook thought it would be more pertinent to have an overall museums director in place before officially moving forward, as that person might have other ideas.

"I don't think we are against (sharing), as we brought the idea to you," Newton said. "It's a win-win for both sides."

Duncan requested that Wills evaluate the museums' technical situation so she would be able to give the museums board an idea if it needed to address something sooner, but that might not be possible now.

"I am not sure our IT director has the time to do it. She already has a 60-hour work week," Meeker said, and noting that the museums' IT issues should be dealt with through the county's IT employees.

"I am reluctant at this time. I know they have a need, but I don't think we can help at the moment."

Fremont County Commissioner Stephanie Kessler, the commission liaison for both boards, said she did not think the county had thought about the IT demand among its entities.

"As the libraries have their own person, museums should too, but maybe they are not big enough to fund that," Kessler said. "We are understaffed at the county level, too."

She noted the main IT person at the county level is on leave after breaking her leg.

Newton agreed with Meeker, stating he hoped he didn't mislead the museum board, and agreed that Wills is "overworked big time."

"As a board, we can't commit her time right now," Newton said, but added working together in the future "makes sense from every angle."

Duncan said it would be an advantage for the boards to put something together for budget planning for any resource sharing before the fiscal year begins in July. He noted a conversation could start now, but said the sharing doesn't have to start until further down the road.

"These are things we have to look at," Duncan said.

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