Denver Public Library Prepares for a Potential $2.5 Million Budget Cut

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Library budget cuts could mean closing 7-12 branches in 2012.

The Denver Public Library Commission met yesterday, April 20, 2011 to discuss potential cuts to the Library’s budget, as well as options for sustainable funding. They released this White Paper which explains more about the situation and their recommendations.

In a nutshell, DPL has been instructed by the city to prepare a 2012 budget proposal with a target reduction of $2.5 million. The three options for meeting this target are:

  1. The Library could further reduce hours of operation (however, many branches are only open 32 hours per week as it is).
  2. Reduce hours and cut the materials budget.
  3. Close some branches and use the savings to maintain adequate service at the remaining branches and Central.

The Library Commission recommends pursuing branch closures to maintain minimum service standards, and with a $2.5 million reduction in the budget, this would mean 7-12 branches would close indefinitely.

The White Paper also details the minimum Library service standards that the Commission has set forth, and further explores DPL’s need for sustainable funding, and what those options may look like.

We need EVERYONE in our community who is upset by the idea of closures to contact their elected officials and share how important the Library is to them, their families, their neighbors and our City.

Budget Documentation

White Paper

Press Release

Comments

Statement by Christiane Citron at Meeting of the
Denver Public Library Commission, June 15, 2011

You’ve had poll after poll tell you that Denver voters love and value our branch library system. Some branches are especially beloved ‘mom and pop’ operations and are no less loved for being small by their often low-income users because they may not be as “efficient” as you would wish. Much of your rhetoric seems to forget that the library is not a superstore.
The library provides a service to the public, rather than a product. It provides access and should not be measured by standards of productivity or efficiency of a factory. Your ‘product’ is the access itself. Some were donated in perpetuity by Andrew Carnegie in a sacred trust intended to insure access to the poor (and are designated historic landmarks, a mark of the City of Denver’s esteem for their importance). For example, many of the people who rely on Byers Library (a Carnegie Library and designated historic landmark) are mobility limited, children, elderly and poor. I challenge each of you to come to Byers any time and see children filling the space, using the six computers. When we met there the last two times, there was not enough space for us to meet at a table because library users were filling the tables.
I refer you to this book, Carnegie Libraries Across America—A Public Legacy by Theodore Jones, which ironically is not in the DPL collection. [I held up the book to display it] I got this book from the Auraria library. I would like to hope this omission does not reflect your disregard for the Carnegie libraries still within the DPL system.
However, faced with limitation of funding, you have voted to proceed with a plan that you may close seven to twelve branches. City wide neighborhood groups have objected to this. At the same time you’ve begun an expensive PR campaign and seem to be recruiting city employees to lobby voters on a ballot issue that they should remove this system of public assets treasured in a public trust from out of city government accountability and make you an independent entity.
Many of us are dismayed that you are moving in the wrong direction, of less potential community role in decision-making. Our branch system and our publicly owned real estate should not be up for grabs, especially at a time when you’ve been working toward passing a new de-accessioning policy. We want more public participation in library decision-making, not less. We think you should make decision-making after community input, not the other way around as you have been doing with community meetings as window-dressing after the fact. Because of this pattern, trust issues have developed, which are compounded when community advocates ask to see library meeting material and are told that they have to make formal open records requests.

CHRISTIANE H. CITRON
Library Volunteer and Advocate

Create a Denver Library District with taxing power.

READ the "WHITEPAPER" of April 21, 2011.

After reading the commission's whitepaper, I have a few points I would like to make and perhaps a suggestion or two:

1. Since when has DPL been fully tax supported? If it wasn't for the Friends Foundation we wouldn't have a much of a library system. What is going on with the foundation?
2. It is very insulting to those of us who love classic literature or just want to do research, to say the library should not be a showcase. To have the option and availability of old and outdated books is a real benefit. DPL has managed to keep a few books around. It should showcase these books with pride.
3. DPL started throwing donated books away well over 10 years ago. Donations really are one way to help with cost.
4. Volunteers are and still can be a way to staff our neighborhood branches. It is very important to keep our neighborhood branches open. The children need a place to continue to learn and enjoy the gift of reading. Adults need the library for the same reason. Our branch libraries are a place to socialize and educate in many different forms.
5. To cut the employment of more staff adds to already large unemployment rate. Has anyone asked the employees for ideas on how to make DPL more financially sound?

Hi Kim - Thanks for all your thoughts. Here is some more info/answers to your questions. I hope this helps!

1.The Denver Public Library has been primarily supported by City taxes since it began in 1889. While the Friends Foundation provides incredible support for the Library, the funds they raise are a small portion of the overall Library budget. The breakdown of how the Library is funded is as follows: 91% General Fund ($30.96 MM), 6% Donations ($2.10 MM) and 3% Grants (1.07 MM).  The revenue generated by the Friends Foundation and Grants help fun programs at the Library, while the General Fund, mainly goes toward personnel, materials, and supplies/services.

You can see the breakdown here:
http://www.denverlibrary.org/content/budget

2. Thank you for your comment.

3. DPL receives book donations of all kinds on a regular basis. Donations are used to both supplement our circulating collection and to raise money that supplements our materials budget through book sales. Our Gigantic Used Book Sale will take place from June 9 - 12 this year. We strive to not throw any books away and work with an outside vendor to resell or recycle all of our donations that are not sold during our annual Used Book Sale.

4. DPL relies heavily on hundreds of volunteers/docents to help meet the needs of our customers. In fact, in 2010 they contributed over 100,000 hours to DPL, which was equivalent to 49.66 full-time employees.

5. We welcome suggestions from staff and the community on ways to address
the Library's long-term funding needs.

 

Please, please, please don't turn this into another "we need more taxes" campaign. That's getting so tiring. I use and love the library system, but why don't we direct our emphasis towards actual wasteful spending in the city of Denver. I'm sure we can come up with a measly million or two to help out the libraries. Seriously.

I hope the public will get to vote on which scenario we'd rather have. I strongly disagree that closing branches is the answer. It is not reasonable to assume that some hours at all branches is worse than many hours at a handful of locations. The decision to close branches reflects a lack of awareness of the habits and travel capabilities of the public. Some hours is ALWAYS better than no hours. Be rest assured that if branches are closed, the patrons served by many of those branches will not go to another library; they will not have a library at all. That is not acceptable; I think it's much easier for people to adjust their schedules to find time to come to libraries with sparse hours than it is for them to travel somewhere further away.

Thank you for your interest. As we have in the past, DPL will be having community meetings this summer for the public to discuss/voice their opinions. Exact times/dates are still to be determined, but we will post these online as soon as they are confirmed.

Additionally, City Council will hold public budget hearings before any final decisions are made. These meetings will be posted on the City's website, once they are set:

www.denvergov.org/citycouncil/DenverCityCouncil/MeetingCalendar/tabid/436353/Default.aspx

 

I am writing to as for your help in blocking the proposed budget cuts for the Denver Public LIbrary. In recessionary times, the library so important for Denver citizens! From children to elders, we rely on the library for all of its wonderful services; lending, education, computers, reference; even entertainment! If we have to make library cuts, my suggestion would be Fresh City life programs; they are fun, yet not essential to the general public. WE NEED ALL OF OUR BRANCH LIBRARIES, MORE THAN EVER BEFORE!

Surely we can come up with other solutions; small fees to check out books/tapes, upping the volunteer corp, looking at other "niche" services that don't appeal/apply to the general public, charging a small fee for using on-line holds, etc.

Thank you for your support in keeping all of our library open to all!

Ilene Kasper

Thank you for your note and support. We have discussed the option of charging fees for items/services, and decided that we do not want to begin charging fees as providing a free and equitable public library system is at the core of our beliefs, and charging for items would create a higher level of access for those who are able to pay for items they’d like to check out.

Our mission is to connect people to information, ideas and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives and strengthen our community. We can only achieve our mission by providing free and equal access to all. Often those who need our services the most are least able to afford to pay for them.

If anyone wants to donate to the Library, there is a separate 501 (c) 3 organization called the Friends Foundation who raises funds specifically for the Denver Public LIbrary.  Learn more about the Friends Foundation: www.dplfriends.org.

There are futher options than the 3 listed in the "white" paper. Cuts to non-branch staff are not only feasible, they should be mandatory. After all, the branch staff (those who serve face-to-face w/ the public) positions have been drastically cut in recent years, while administrative staff positions have been added. It is insulting to taxpayers that the only options that Amore, et. al, are proferring are those that impact customer service; while insulating those who work "behind the scenes". There is already precious little ability for the public to scrutinize DPL budgets and financial transactions as it is. A library district will remove DPL from City aupices (including oversight and approval). If Amore is being this disingenuous while there is an opportunity to review DPL actions and finances, imagine what will happen when she has been freed to pursue library matters at will. Let's talk about another fundamental problem; that of access to libraries. A large number of libraries exist today in areas where people don't have home computers and don't have transportation and so depend on having libraries that are within walking distance. Amore & company claim that it's no big deal for a library user who currently uses - say Byers - to walk the 1.75 miles to Central. Really??!! What mother in her right mind would let her 9-year-old walk from 9th & Sante Fe to 13th & Broadway in through snow in the February dark and across major thoroughfares? The only alternative is to get in a vehicle (which many folks in that area don't have) and drive. Take an Athmar or Barnum library user. A trip to the as-yet-unbuild westside library requires a car; there's no other choice. What happened to providing services that are also "green"? Walking/biking is green. Making unnecessary car trips are not. Until - and unless - Amore provides genuine recommendations for dealing with next year's budget, the answer to selecting one of the 3 "white" paper options AND TO INSTITUTING A LIBRARY DISTRICT is a resounding NO DEAL! Do what the other Denver departments are having to do and MAKE IT WORK!!

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