Vikas Reddy, co-founder/CEO of LightTwist, co-founder of Occipital
Krista Marks, CTO of Saga Education, co-founder/CEO of Woot Math (now Saga), co-founder/CEO Kerpoof (now Disney)
Yoav Lurie, angel investor and advisor, co-founder/CEO of SimpleEnergy (now Uplight)
Bryan Birsic, co-founder/CEO of Fundboard, co-founder of Wunder Capital
As Boulder residents who have started businesses here, we’re strongly in support of the Boulder Library district.
While we’re from different parts of the country, we all grew up with public libraries nearby that served as a door to a wider world. This lucky break gave us free access to a wealth of knowledge and stories that sparked our imaginations and ambitions. It was a big part of how we were able to start businesses that employ hundreds of people in Boulder and Boulder County.
We believe an excellent public library system is an essential component for a fully-functioning community. It’s important not only for helping attract and retain some of the best and brightest talent from across the country to work here, but also to give others in our community some of the same opportunities we were lucky to have.
Unfortunately what’s happened over the last several years is that our amazing Boulder public library is now in a dire funding situation. While the library only represents about 3% of the City’s budget, it took about 17% of the permanent pandemic-era cuts. This has led to the closing or reduction of many important services.
One example is Boulder Public Library’s BLDG 61 makerspace - a nationally recognized program housed in the main library building that provides free access to and training on 3D printers, CNC routers, welding equipment, and more. Sadly, it now sits closed 5 days out of the week because of funding issues.
Beyond the makerspace, the library is the only institution that provides free access to marketing research and financial databases, business planning help, interview practice, resume review, and job coaching. And it’s the only place in town regularly offering free meeting spaces with reliable wifi and presentation hookups where businesses can meet clients and colleagues. But as budget cuts have led to fewer open public hours, limited staffing, and a minimized materials budget, many of these services have been paused or reduced.
There is a fix for the underfunding of our library system: creating and funding a library district. Library districts are the most common form of library governance in the state, and they provide the stable, long-term funding libraries need to truly serve their communities—including local businesses.
This is why we were surprised to see Boulder’s Chamber of Commerce wading into the debate by opposing the library district measure, which goes on ballots this fall. As business owners and entrepreneurs, we disagree.
We have seen the opponents’ arguments over governance, and believe the real issue isn’t about control. There are over 50 thriving and highly-acclaimed library districts across Colorado, from Colorado Springs to Douglas County to Fort Collins to Erie to Greeley to Nederland and Lyons that have had no issues with governance. The City of Boulder and the County Commissioners are the decision makers when it comes to stewarding library assets such as buildings, and oversight, which includes appointing and removing trustees. The proposal for the district follows state law, the same way as school districts and other districts, like rural fire, are funded.
We understand that taxes are an issue that each resident and property owner will sit with and decide for themselves. But we think businesses—and their employees and customers—are attracted to locations that have robust cultural amenities. Libraries, schools, the arts, and parks are all part of that picture, and these require public investment.
There is a saying that a community grows great when its members plant trees in whose shade they will never sit. The sparks of knowledge, inspiration, and imagination lie in our library system. Through the Boulder Library district we can help seed the next generation of entrepreneurs and small business creators in our community.