Jessie Phelps is new library director

Charity Wessel

Custer County’s public library, located at 447 Crook Street, has hired Jessie Phelps as new director.
Phelps was hired this summer, taking over Doris Ann Mertz’s legacy.  
Phelps earned a master’s degree in Library Science from University of Kentucky and moved to Custer in 2020 with her wildland-firefighting husband, Dave.
When asked about the patronage of our Custer library, Phelps said the library “wants to be a large resource for all families” noting Custer is a mix of retirees, residents new to the Black Hills and a “large homeschool population in Custer.”
A couple of the specific needs Custer County Library meets for students and job seekers is inexpensive access to a wireless printer and being open until 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
Also, in place of late fees, the library has a “Guilt Jar.”
“There are no fines (here). Libraries are moving away from fines,” Phelps said.  
Phelps encourages the public to come to the library for special projects (genealogy research, large meeting room rentals) and book recommendations.
Phelps reads to her toddler often and has many children’s literature and childhood-development book suggestions.
Phelps also promotes the library’s book club because of its unique spin: aptly named Book Chat, it’s an informal format where patrons discuss “whatever they’ve read that month; it’s a chat with likeminded people who like to read books,” Phelps said. Book Chat next meets 4:30 p.m., Aug. 26.
Phelps was quick to  acknowledge the support she receives each day on the job:  from the library’s work staff (Doris Ann Mertz,  Sarah Myers, Thea Teasley-Whiting) and library volunteers, to the Library Board and Custer County Commissioners.
This Custer County Library team also partners with other libraries in the Black Hills to find materials in an online consortium. “It makes a smaller library into a much larger library,” Phelps said.
Our library in Custer continues to be an advocate for our town, especially with Phelps’ broad perspective in reminding us that, “it is a public library. The library is for our whole community.”


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