A library district is a model for governance and funding that is the most common form of library governance in the state of Colorado. The majority of all library cardholders in the state (60+%) are served by a district. Districts are funded through property taxes - just like schools, fire services, and transportation in many communities.
This stable source of funding ensures that vital services aren't disrupted during economic downturns. Without it, we risk losing our libraries.
Fort Collins, Nederland, Lyons, Erie, Greeley, Douglas County, Adams County, Arapahoe County, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and many more Colorado communities have library districts. Voters approved these districts to help libraries adapt and thrive as needs change. We can learn from them about the difference a library district makes.
Poudre River Public Library District (Fort Collins)
Voters approved a library district in Fort Collins in 2006, and enabled the library to:
- Reinstate 17 jobs that had been cut during previous city budget crises.
- Open a new branch library. The new branch was under construction at the time of the election, but had no budget for staff or materials until the district was approved.
- Extend library hours that had been cut during the previous years.
- Reopen drop boxes for after hours returns in areas not close to one of the two libraries.
- Double its budget, which had been reduced over the years.
- Resume programming, expand collections, and increase service levels.
“Being a Library District provides a much greater degree of autonomy, allowing us to build partnerships and make decisions and strategic focus areas for serving our communities without the sometimes cumbersome processes, and complicated layers of approval required, in a municipal environment." — Ken Draves, Poudre River Library Director
Arapahoe Library District
Oli Sanidas, Library Director, shares the benefits of being a library district:
- Information technology. Many libraries share infrastructure with cities, or other local government bodies, where security is emphasized over access. This leads to many challenges when trying to offer a service for the public.
- Budget priorities. We do not share our budget so we are not in competition for resources with other essential services. It is difficult to predict priorities when the budget is controlled by an outside entity and when allocations are bargained from year to year. Our revenue stream is more predictable and stable.
- Aligned values. Again since we create and adhere to our own sets of values we are not encumbered by differing institutional priorities. As in the I.T. example, our value is open access to the public. That is not in conflict with another institution.
Douglas County Libraries
Jamie LaRue, former library director:
- After spending $150,000 a year to the county for tech support, libraries bought and began to manage their own Interlibrary Loan System, at a savings the first year of $50,000, and $150,000 every year thereafter.
- Libraries had the budget to go from 5 days-a-week service to 7 days-a-week.
- To manage the increased hours, libraries doubled their staff, enabling a great deal of further service expansion.
Anythink Libraries (Adams County)
"In 2004, Rangeview Library District separated from Adams County, Colorado, to become a special taxing district. This provided a dedicated funding stream to the library system based on property taxes and shifted authority from county leadership to the library director and five-member Board of Trustees. The county was no longer involved in day-to-day operations or budgeting, and the forming of the district offered more flexibility for the library to seek additional funding.
Voters approved a mill levy increase for the library system in 2006, which was the spark of the "revolution of Rangeview Libraries." Because of the autonomy that comes with the special taxing district designation, and the additional mill funding, the library system was able to transform its approach to library service. Anythink was able to develop the experience model for which it is now known, breaking down barriers to access, emphasizing learning through play, creating welcoming spaces for all, and growing a strong culture based on creativity, hospitality and imagination.
None of this would have been possible had the system not shifted to a district." — Stacie Ledden, Anythink Director of Strategic Partnerships
Boulder Public Library
This year, Boulder-area voters have the opportunity to form a library district, and we stand to gain many of the same benefits listed above. Check out exactly what that might mean for Boulder.