This opinion piece originally appeared in the Daily Camera on November 2, 2022

When I began my library career at the Boulder Public Library in 1999, both library staffing and library funding were significantly more robust than today, twenty-three years later. This seems inconceivable, but it’s true and it’s a travesty. For over two decades I have witnessed and felt the negative impact of the endless struggle of library director after library director to secure necessary funding. Funding has been trimmed to the point where there is not enough staff to implement tried-and-true programming, much less increase programming, services and outreach to all communities. 

Every year the budget is scrutinized, and the library always loses out to other “necessary” city needs. The library has never had stable funding, which is why no program or staff member ever feels secure. The Boulder Library Foundation has funded 90% of all of the programs offered at the Boulder Public Library (including the branches: Meadows, George Reynolds, Carnegie, NoBo Little Library) for forty-eight years. Currently, the foundation is unable to even fund certain popular programming due to the raw fact that there is no staff to implement these programs. 

The Library Concert Series and the Library Film Series have been eliminated. The BLDG 61 Makerspace offered dozens of classes and open studio opportunities and now, most of the week its doors remained locked. The same goes for the valuable Teen Space and our original Carnegie Branch. Yes, Boulder’s OG library is closed and only accessible by appointment. 

In 1905, Andrew Carnegie gifted the City of Boulder with $15,000 to build the Carnegie branch at 1125 Pine Street (stop by and take a peek in the windows), with the agreement that the city would provide adequate staffing in perpetuity. Imagine if Andrew Carnegie knew that a city as wealthy as Boulder has not been able to keep its promise. 

Voting “yes” on 6C will change all of this. 

Voting “yes” on 6C means forming a library district, which will solve the funding issues for the library. By forming a library district, the Boulder Public Library will join fifty-six successful library districts in the state of Colorado — all of which remained open during the pandemic and did not have to let staff go. By forming a library district, Gunbarrel will finally get its own branch. By forming a library district the entire Boulder Public Library System will have adequate and predictable funding in perpetuity. 

Consistency is key. Having the staffing to support essential programs such as the invaluable BoulderReads program offers is critical. 

The outreach the Boulder Library Foundation does is, in part, to inform underserved communities of the opportunities that the library offers, such as free GED classes, Citizenship classes and English tutoring. It is a shame that the BoulderReads program is currently so understaffed that they can only offer a fraction of the classes that they did twenty years ago. Let’s not take an enormous step backward by making the misguided argument that the city should fund the library, because we are well beyond being able to make that a reality.

Please vote “yes” for 6C and watch your local library provide the programs and services that a healthy community that believes in literacy in all its forms needs to not only recover but flourish. 

Juliette León Bartsch was a long-time staff member of the Boulder Public Library and is now the director of Development & Marketing with the Boulder Library Foundation.