New year, same problem: Dining and libraries adjust to staff shortages

Departments hit by staffing shortages, leading to cuts in operation hours
As an understaffed dining team adjusts to new equipment, a staff member looks on. Photo courtesy of Samuel Boudreau ’ 23.
Samuel Boudreau
Editor in Chief

After an eventful 2021-22 academic year that saw increased entry-level hourly wages, calls for student and faculty dining staff volunteers, partnerships with multiple local food businesses and a contentious decision to outsource dining services to Creative Dining Services (CDS), the College’s campus dining continues to experience staffing shortages. After the College’s partnership with Creative Dining Services this summer, the College’s dining staff team rose from 72 to 89 members, including management. Despite this increase, Marjorie Shamp, Director of Campus Dining, told the Voice that the new facility needs about 110 staff members to fully operate. “Our new facilities are also much more labor intensive than before,” said Shamp. 

Debroah Hughes, a kitchen staff member, said that the dining staff is down 20 people in the new student center. “We have so many cool stations we can open up,” said Hughes, “but we don’t have enough hands.” Hughes said that each station requires at least three employees, leading to the College’s current staff members to shift from station to station. “That’s why you’ll see us starting to stagger,” said Hughes, “like we’re going to open Lemongrass tonight but Globe during the day.” She continued, “in the meantime, we just got to keep shuffling the people that are here.” 

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Wayne County has the eighth lowest unemployment rate out of the state’s 88 counties which indicates strong job growth in the county. “We’re really lucky in Wayne County, because there are so many jobs available,” said Hughes. “For instance, our supervisor hired 15 folks, but nine of our older people left because they had other opportunities.” 

According to reports conducted by CDS’ management team, there are only 16 student employees in the College’s dining staff, a severe shortage from previous years. “In years past,” said Shamp, “we have had as many as 75 students working in dining.” One dining employee told the Voice that this is the worst shortage they’ve seen in dining services. “I have been here for a very long time and have never seen staff shortages this severe.” To gain student interest in employment opportunities, CDS posted QR codes for job opportunities across the student center. 

Shortages of hourly staff and student employees has led to the inability to operate certain stations, particularly the dishwasher. “[The staffing shortage] is very real,” said James Moline, a Receiving Clerk for the College’s dining staff. “It is also the primary cause of using paper products for plates, cups and silverware,” he continued. To operate the dishwasher station, the College needs enough staff for an eight-hour straight shift. “It takes five people in there to keep it up,” said Shamp. 

Shamp hopes that Fall Break and CDS’s online presence will help gain more staff members and provide the staff with time to master the student center’s new equipment. Shamp said that, “Everyone’s got to remember we’ve only been partners [with CDS] for 10 weeks. We are making progress.” Shamp also said campus dining will remove sneeze guards from some stations for students to serve themselves and develop menu items that take less labor to produce for students.

Another department adjusting to staffing shortages is the College’s libraries. For the fall semester, the College cumulatively shaved off 16 hours from Timken Science Library’s hours compared to previous years, including shifts from 8:00 a.m. – midnight (Monday – Thursday) to 8:00 a.m. to 10:00p.m. (Monday – Thursday), 8:00 a.m. – 10:00p.m. (Friday) to 8:00a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Friday), 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Saturday) to 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Saturday) and 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. (Sunday) to noon – 10:00 p.m. (Sunday). 

In a “head-count” conducted by the College’s library staff, the College found that an average of five students used Timken Science Library in later hours, (10:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.), leading to a cut in operation hours. “The usage just didn’t bear out when you average less than five students,” said Makiba Foster, Head Librarian of the College. “We are down quite a bit in staffing.” The College’s administrative cabinet approved the change. “This decision was not made lightly,” said Foster. 

Elys Kittling Law, Research and Information Services Librarian, told the Voice that she, Michael Buttrey, Head of Access Services; Alena Michel, Science Libraries Associate and Carrie Gessner, Access Services Evening Supervisor, help supervise the library’s student workers and provide access services for students in the evening. “Thus, there is a team of supervisors available to student employees through 5 p.m.,” said Law, “and several evenings during the week through 8 p.m., across all three libraries.”

After 8:00 p.m., Foster is the only staff member left to supervise student workers across the libraries. “Foster has shared that given limited resources,” said Law, “she believes Carrie’s time and expertise is better served by concentrating it in those library spaces with the most usage/activity.” 

From 2019 to 2022, Andrews and Gault Libraries also saw a decrease in their hours of operation over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to, an online directory of libraries, Andrews/Gault Libraries previous hours were from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. (Monday – Thursday), 8:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. (Friday), 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Saturday) and 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. (Sunday). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrews/Gault Libraries saw a 17-hour weekly decrease in their hours of operations: 8:00 a.m. – midnight (Monday-Thursday), 8:00 a.m. – 7:00p.m. (Friday), 8:00a.m. – 7:00p.m. (Saturday) and noon – midnight (Sunday). Out of the 13 schools in the Great Lakes Colleges Association, Wooster’s Andrews/Gault Libraries ranks sixth in hours of operation (96 hours) on a weekly basis behind Kenyon College (115 hours), Denison University (113.1 hours), Allegheny College (109.5 hours), Wabash College (100 hours) and Oberlin College (98 hours) (DePauw University’s main library is currently under renovation), according to the Colleges’ websites.

Independent Study (I.S.), however, has the College’s libraries play an important role on campus, as they are home to the majority of senior student carrels. According to the College libraries’ carrel assignments for 2022-2023, there are approximately 268 senior carrels in the College’s Gault, Andrews and Timken Science Libraries. U.S. News & World Report ranks the College’s I.S. program as the second best “senior capstone” program in the country. I.S. is infamous for its workload, as the College’s website reads that “With the one-on-one support and guidance of a faculty mentor, you will plan, develop, and complete a significant piece of original research, scholarship, or creative expression – culminating in a major research paper, an art exhibit or a performance – that pulls together what you’ve learned and demonstrates the analytical, creative, and communication skills you have honed at Wooster.”Across the Midwest, Wooster has a reputation as an academically rigorous institution. In a comparative report between Kenyon College and The College of Wooster,, a site that “share[s] the value of the liberal arts colleges with families and give liberal arts schools the opportunity to highlight their unique characteristics,” wrote that, “Wooster students perceived their academics as slightly more challenging, as 60% of the students said the workload was ‘difficult, consuming most of their time,’ and the remaining 40% answered ‘manageable.’”

The shift in library hours drew a variety of responses from students working on I.S. in Timken. Victoria Silva ’23 told the Voice that the hours change significantly impacts her ability to work on I.S. “Recently, I had to finish a very important part of my I.S. in order to move forward with a performance and creative component of it,” said Silva, “and by the time I could sit and work on it on Friday, Timken was closed.” Silva also said that working on her I.S. in her room was inefficient due to noise in the dorm. “…I wouldn’t have chosen a carrel in Timken if this were the case,” said Silva. Caitlin Strassburg ’23 agrees with Silva’s sentiment. “I don’t want to have to plan where to work,” she said, “the point of carrels is to be your home base for work and limited access at all is frustrating.” Many students with Timken carrels, however, do not have a problem with the hours shift. “I am not affected by these hours,” said Anna Truong ’23, “I tend to do deep work in the mornings and barely go to my carrel at night [due to] lacrosse practices.” Yeeun Koh ’24 said she “felt strongly” about the time change but is able to complete her I.S. work at home. She stated that she was “ not largely affected by the new policy, as I live in a single room and can always go back to my room and do my work.” Koh expressed concern for students with distractions in their dorm, such as roommates or a lack of air conditioning. 

Foster told the Voice that the libraries will conduct another “head-count” of student use in libraries for October. In the meantime, Foster said students may utilize the Andrews and Gault libraries along with reopening spaces in the student center. “We understand that students need the space,” said Foster, “everyone is in a rebuilding stage.”

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