October 19, 2022, The Daily Camera
The best way to support public libraries? Fund them.
What does it mean to support public libraries in an age of misinformation and attacks on freedom of speech and learning? In a time when social supports and neighborly ties are eroding? We have always believed in the power of libraries to defend inquiry, elevate people and strengthen communities, and that’s why we have worked for years to bring Measure 6C to the ballot.
Boulder’s public library is a beloved institution. In multiple community surveys, the library ranks amongst the most popular local services, with 88% of likely voters reporting a favorable opinion in 2022. Our library provides services many community members rely on — from story hours and homework help to adult literacy programs, small business support, and materials delivery for our homebound neighbors. And before hours were reduced during the pandemic, more than 1 million people passed through our libraries’ doors each year, while 5.2 million accessed services online.
Our libraries are more relevant today than at any time in their proud history, but funding has not kept up with community needs and expectations.
If our Boulder Public Library appears strong, that’s a testament to outstanding staff and volunteers, and not to the resources we provide them. With an inflation-adjusted budget that has been stagnant since 2002, and a steady decline in staffing, the library now struggles to provide even basic services.
Facilities like the Canyon Theater and Carnegie Library for Local History have closed or are open by appointment only, and the popular Makerspace sits locked and unused five days a week. Branch libraries have reduced hours. An annualized $2.3 million maintenance backlog threatens both buildings and collections. And private philanthropy — already the source for most library programming — is now being tapped to cover staffing needs.
Measure 6C stops this decline and puts Boulder’s library on stable footing for the future.
It does so by creating a regional library district, similar to those already operating in communities like Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Boulder’s district would align the library’s tax base with its service area, bringing in many of the 30% of cardholders that live outside of city limits. It would also shift funding from sales tax revenues — which leave libraries vulnerable when communities need libraries the most — to more stable property taxes, which allow for long-term planning and continuity of services.
Measure 6C also increases library funding by a modest 12%, from $16.78 million in projected city spending in 2023 to $18.78 million. That additional $2 million per year will provide funds to restore staffing and hours, invest in critical programs, properly care for facilities and materials, and bring a branch library to the Gunbarrel community.
A library district is the last plan standing after years of study and input from city staff, library experts, community members, and multiple City Councils. In our many years of advocacy, no other viable approach to funding our libraries has emerged. And we think the proposition is clear: Are we as a community ready to invest what’s necessary to support the library services we’ve said — year after year — that we value?
There are costs, of course. But we’re proud to have earned the support of groups like the NAACP-Boulder County, El Centro AMISTAD, Boulder Area Labor Council and the Colorado Working Families Party — all of whom understand what libraries mean to the economically disadvantaged members of our community.
Unfortunately, opponents are working to cast doubt by denying the problem (everything is fine!), exaggerating the proposed funding increase, and suggesting district libraries will be less-than-public. Their arguments fly in the face of evidence — the budget cuts and decades of local inaction, the full cost of current city funding, and the 56 library districts across Colorado that provide reliable and relevant service to their communities. We’ll call the opposition to Measure 6C what it is: an attempt to keep our libraries underfunded.
Our calling, instead, is to lift up public libraries. More than just a vote to modernize library finances and governance, a “yes” on 6C is a vote to support literacy, equity and democracy in our community. These are values worth defending, championing, and yes, funding.
Joni Teter and Juana Gomez are co-chairs of the Boulder Library Champions/Yes on 6C campaign, and former Boulder Library Commissioners.
Janet Salmons: Library district: I’m happy to pay my fair share
October 19, 2022, The Daily Camera
When I discovered that my local library card worked at the big Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, I became a rare case: a kid who cut school to sit in the library. It was my refuge, the place where I found the inspiration to keep reading and asking hard questions.
In a recent Internet search, I discovered that Mr. Pratt was a businessman who made a lot of money selling mule shoes and nails in the 1800s. He had an enviable dilemma: What could he do with his wealth to make a lasting difference? He decided to establish and endow “a free circulating public library open to all citizens regardless of property or color,” a place where people who wanted to learn could do so, whether or not they could afford to study in an academic institution. He also motivated Andrew Carnegie to establish a national network of libraries, including one in Boulder.
Apparently, Pratt anticipated that someone from a working-class home with no books would benefit from the chance to carry home armloads. I attribute my success as a writer to the learning experiences from those playing-hooky days at Enoch Pratt Library.
Today Boulder is faced with a similar dilemma. How can we make a difference to people in our community? Should we make sure that Boulder has refuges for the curious, places where we can meet, view art, listen to music, be inspired or find practical information? I’ll stand with Pratt and Carnegie, and while I lack a fortune to donate, I will happily pay my fair share in taxes. Join me in voting “yes” on the 6C Ballot Measure.
Rebecca Morse: District would help Gunbarrel residents access vital services
October 19, 2022, The Daily Camera
The library is a vital community service and should be funded as such. It’s not just about the books (although it’s about the books, too). Early in the pandemic while Boulder Libraries closed for months, there was concern about where the senior population, many of whom use the library as one of their sole sources of connection to community, would go. I learned that library staff sought to call every senior over the age of 65 to check in and distributed over 400 WiFi routers with unlimited data to low-income families and seniors, helping them stay connected while the libraries were inaccessible.
We are residents of the city and use the library regularly. Due to decades of deprioritization in the city’s budget, the library can’t expand its services to Gunbarrel, which has been asking for a library for years. My family doesn’t use the library as much as we would if we could just pop over to a Gunbarrel branch. It is also harder for our Gunbarrel residents, many of whom pay city taxes, to access vital library services.
A library district brings more than a corner branch I will enjoy popping into between errands. A district puts the entire system on a more stable funding path, restores hours and services, and adds more books. With no sustainable funding plan in the city’s budget to do this, forming a district brings in a larger tax base of users to get it done. Using my address on the proposed tax, I’m happy to pay the $13 per month it would cost our household to give our community a strong library system. I look forward to voting “yes” on measure 6C to fund our libraries in November.
Jane Hummer: Libraries: Listen to the facts and vote your values
October 18, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m shocked at the way the library district conversation has been going. Listening to the “no” point of view, one might think the library is about to be taken over by a cabal of evil librarians and sold off for parts. In reality, Measure 6C is a straightforward library funding measure.
Forming a library district in Boulder was first proposed in 1987. Since then, the majority of library systems in Colorado have become library districts. Meanwhile, Boulder has closed one branch but to appointments only (Carnegie), and the other four branches are closed at various times and days due to a lack of funding.
Opponents continue to misinform and fearmonger about the details, with few checks on their behavior. The Daily Camera’s September 25 editorial went a long way in dispelling the most persistent myths, but the “keep our libraries” campaign and its backers must take accountability for continuing to spread inaccurate information.
Here are a few facts:
Library districts are the most common form of library governance in Colorado.
Library district boards are appointed, in perpetuity, by city council and county commissioners, who also have the power to remove board members. This is a matter of state law.
- Boulder Library will cost $16.78M in 2023, which is 3% of the city’s budget. Measure 6C adds $2M, representing a 12% increase in funding. This is enough to re-open all branches and the makerspace and to reinstate programming that’s been canceled.
It’s simple: If you agree libraries should be open every day, vote “yes” on 6C. If you think we should “keep our libraries” in their current cycle of underfunding and closure, vote “no.” Fight through the misinformation and vote your values.
Miho Shida: Libraries: Invest in Gunbarrel, vote ‘yes’ on 6C
October 17, 2022, The Daily Camera
Vote “yes” on ballot measure 6C so that Gunbarrel can have its first dedicated community space in the form of a corner library. A library has been promised to Gunbarrel for decades. This is our chance to finally have a community resource that many in Boulder enjoy. A corner library will benefit residents of all ages and be essential to help Gunbarrel residents meet and face future challenges together.
Jennifer Yee: Libraries: I want my taxes directed to the institutions I value
October 16, 2022, The Daily Camera
Almost every weekend of my childhood, my parents marched three young children more than a mile to the public library. We spent the morning climbing the historic spiral staircase, ogling the VHS tapes in their thick plastic casings, and poring over books. The library was where I was able to learn about difficult topics and current events that my immigrant parents did not have the financial or emotional resources to teach me. I’m proud to support our libraries today because of the democratic access they provide to information and resources for families.
I see the rise of censorship and book banning as critical issues of our time. It’s an issue we can’t ignore. Libraries are on the front lines of this fight, in towns all across the country. Communities that have strong libraries, and ones that believe in the importance of public education and the public commons, are going to be better equipped to fight against these anti-democratic waves.
Investing in our libraries is crucial to protecting our shared and communal access to information, not just for the wealthy among us, or for the people who have disposable incomes: for everyone, including the young family in which I grew up.
I have seen the opposition to funding our libraries, and it seems to boil down to property taxes. What good are my taxes if I cannot ensure they are directed to the institutions that I value most? I am voting “yes” on measure 6C because investing in our libraries in the long term is crucial for our democracy.
Boli Medappa: Election: Take notice of all the work our libraries do
October 14, 2022, The Daily Camera
Boulder Public Library doesn’t stop. Go to the library today, and you might not notice all the work your library has been doing to equalize the playing field in Boulder for residents and families. And that’s ok: Not all of us make use of the services the library provides. But if you are, for instance, a non-English speaking person, you’ll notice.
You’ll notice that the library has intentionally recruited bilingual and native Spanish-speaking staff. You’ll notice the Book-Rich Environments program, a partnership with Boulder Housing Partners that gives away free books to low-income families. You’ll notice Reading Buddies, a partnership with CU and Fairview High to match adult readers with a child in need of additional reading support. You’ll notice the Space Camp program, bringing in low-income students to the library’s makerspace to do engineering and mathematics. Students from this program have gone on to get scholarships for college as a result of their participation. You’ll notice the bilingual storytimes, reading circles and celebrations of different cultures and literature. You’ll notice the citizenship classes. You’ll notice “Conversations in English,” a program within BoulderReads, which has more than doubled during the pandemic.
Boulder library simply doesn’t stop. But that doesn’t mean it’s not struggling. And I’m asking you to notice that. The makerspace is closed five days a week. The programs mentioned above are paused, canceled, grant-funded or on restricted hours due to budget cuts. Library staff continue to stand on the frontlines of equity work, and this work is vital to our community’s future. The way we support that work is to give our library a stable funding source like the many other libraries across our state. That is why I strongly support measure 6C and will be voting “yes” to fund our libraries. Learn more at boulderlibrarychampions.org.
October 13, 2022, The Boulder Weekly
Sylvia Wirba’s Navajo family didn’t have a car when she was growing up in Cortez, Colorado. They couldn’t afford to buy books either. But she could walk to school. And on the weekends, she and her mother and younger sister walked across town to their local public library.
The library was where Boulder’s newest library commissioner fell in love with reading and began to learn about the world outside her community. Today, the graduate of CU’s law school is a partner at a Denver law firm focusing on housing matters with Native American tribes. She lives in Boulder and now devotes her free time to the Boulder Public Library.
Like me and hundreds of other Boulder Library champions, Sylvia is hoping voters say “yes” to the library district proposal on this November’s ballot.
Since ancient times, libraries have served as a wellspring for civilizations. The earliest known library was the sacred library in Thebes, within the tomb complex of Ramsey II, the great pharaoh of Egypt. An inscription over its portals designated it as “the house of healing for the soul.” Others have translated the inscription as “Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul.”
Working for the Boulder Library Foundation over the past year, I’ve run into countless people with stories like Sylvia’s, who talk about childhood interactions with their public libraries that grounded them, helped them find themselves and learn about their community and the larger world.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read,” wrote James Baldwin. “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
Boulder is a relatively young community, but it has relied on libraries as a healing place since the early days. Its first libraries took the form of reading rooms that popped up on Pearl Street in the late 1800s. The population here was only about 1,000 and composed mostly of men connected to the mining industry. The reading rooms were a refuge for those who sought a more civilized way of interacting with one another, in a town whose nightlife was dominated by bars and brothels.
It was America’s Progressive Era, and a time when a national movement helped libraries become ubiquitous. It was also a local movement led almost exclusively by female volunteers who paid for the books with donations they collected by going door-to-door.
Throughout Boulder’s history, philanthropy has supported the creation, upkeep and expansion of our libraries. Our first library — now known as the Carnegie Library for Local History — was built in 1907 with a $15,000 grant from steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. In return, the City of Boulder agreed to provide the library an annual operating budget of $1,500.
In 1961, donations helped the city pay for construction of the north end of today’s Boulder Main Library, on Canyon Boulevard. The next decade, a bequest from retired CU history professor George Reynolds made construction of the South Boulder branch in his name possible.
The Boulder Library Foundation was established in 1974, “to help you help your library through tax exempt gifts.” In 1987, the foundation helped organize the campaign that led to a successful library funding ballot issue, which funded the completion of the southern half of today’s beautiful glass and flagstone Boulder Main Library.
Last year, the Boulder Library Foundation donated $500,000 to preserve the footprint of the North Boulder Library, which is scheduled to break ground later this year. It was part of nearly $1 million in grants made in 2021 to support library programs, events and services — an all-time high.
This level of philanthropic support is not sustainable, and well short of what’s needed. City funding of the library has not kept pace with demand, which has skyrocketed to 1 million visitors per year. Today’s library staff is 65% the size of the staff in 2000. The roof leaks at every branch. The NoBo Corner Library is closed on Mondays due to budget cuts. The Carnegie Library is open by appointment only. The world-class BLDG61 maker space is closed five days a week. The Canyon Theater was closed throughout the pandemic.
All of this would change if voters decide to fund our libraries this November.
The additional funding would support a new branch in Gunbarrel. The collections budget would increase. Our branches would be open full-time and restored to good working order.
It’s an important time to invest in a place that creates community and develops culture. Across the country, libraries are under attack. Librarians have received death threats for defending against efforts to censor materials and ban books. Suddenly, libraries are getting dragged into our nation’s culture wars.
Libraries defend all rights to speak in a public forum. They fight censorship in all its forms.
That’s why the Boulder Library Foundation has launched an awareness campaign with a simple message: Defend Public Libraries.
Please join us. Vote yes on forming and funding the Boulder Library District. Together we can fill the medicine chest of our soul.
Chris Barge is Executive Director of the Boulder Library Foundation.
Peter Pollock: Libraries: Budget cuts and closed branches mean it’s time for change
October 12, 2022, The Daily Camera
For the past 40 years, I’ve happily supported tax measures for education, open space, transportation, parks and other projects because they have added so much to our quality of life. Hardly anyone denies the benefits of our library and it’s critical that voters scrutinize any tax measure.
Using property tax is a better way to fund the library than sales tax. Property tax is more stable. Sales tax revenue varies with the vagaries of the economy, and tough economic times are just when we need libraries the most. And low-income people are disproportionately impacted by sales tax.
The library has historically been low on the list of council budget priorities due to the very real need to shore up public safety or public works in times of stressed budgets or emergencies. A dedicated library tax solves this problem.
I like that the geography of the district and its governance includes all the users of library services inside and outside the city. All those who benefit will have a chance to both financially support the district and participate in its governance.
The City Council and the County Commissioners are to be trusted with appointing the district board. Other appointed boards, such as the Open Space Board of Trustees, have been good stewards of the resources we have entrusted to them.
I have similar confidence in the work of those historically involved in the library and of the excellent staff itself. We will have the protections that all tax measures require a popular vote, and that development proposals be reviewed by the city or county.
With budget cuts and closed libraries, it’s past the time when we can say that things aren’t broken and don’t need to change. Let’s ensure that libraries can flourish in Boulder. Vote “yes” on 6C.
Mark Browning: Libraries: Lyons is another example of successful district
October 11, 2022, The Daily Camera
As a Lyons resident, I would not presume to opine as to all the details about a new Boulder library district.
However, as an organizer of the Lyons Library District and its first board chair, I would like to share our experiences in forming the Lyons district from 2012 to 2015.
Lyons’ small library was in the same shape as Boulder’s: underfunded as a small part of the municipal budget. It could not provide adequate space, materials, computers or staffing.
It was tough for Lyons area residents to vote for new taxes to fund a new library district in 2014 after our devastating 2013 flood. There was considerable opposition. But it did pass, 55% to 45%, and the money freed up from library expenses in the town budget came in quite handy in paying for flood repairs.
Nearly eight years later, Lyons is proud of its new library, which serves as a vibrant community center, offering not just books, but meeting spaces, innovative programs, computer resources and much more. It’s become the focal point of the community, and it’s hard to find anyone now who doesn’t think the investment in funding a new library district was not well worth it. It is widely considered a valuable community asset.
Should Boulder library district voters also approve a new district (as has become widely recognized as the best management system for libraries across Colorado), I hope and expect it to become as cherished and valued as our Lyons district and facility.
Nicole Sager: Library district: Support remarkable community enrichment
October 10, 2022, The Daily Camera
The Boulder Library Foundation proudly supports this fall’s 6C ballot proposal to reliably fund our libraries.
We join the Daily Camera, the supermajority of Boulder City Council, all our elected school board members and Boulder’s entire legislative delegation in urging you to vote “yes” on 6C.
It was recently suggested on these pages that our support is inappropriate. These claims are false. Our position aligns with our founding articles of incorporation and with IRS lobbying regulations. In fact, the Boulder Library Foundation has a track record of supporting ballot initiatives for increased funding of our public libraries.
It has been 35 years since we’ve seen a proposal for dedicated library funding on Boulder area ballots and it is long overdue.
Join the Boulder Library Foundation in support of 6C and of all the remarkable community enrichment and connection that our libraries provide.
Nicole Sager, co-chair of the Board of Directors for the Boulder Library Foundation, Boulder
Nathan Seidle: Library district: Chamber doesn’t represent my business in Boulder County
October 9, 2022, The Daily Camera
I own SparkFun Electronics, a homegrown Boulder business of 20 years. The Boulder Chamber’s decision to oppose the library district makes no sense to me. The chamber is no ally to small businesses surrounding this library campaign.
Businesses can pay our fair share, it’s in our best interest and it’s good for the community. Of all the ways to increase my business, getting the best employees into Boulder ranks at the top, and libraries help create an educated workforce. I’ll happily pay $10,000 more towards my annual $300,000 tax bill to make a better community for all.
I have huge respect for librarians. The data is on their side. Libraries are also good for the economy, your local librarian can help you research the studies that show that.
Watching library funding conversations for the past decade, it’s clear to this financially-minded businessman the city does not have the funds to keep up with public demand or give the community the library they want — especially after the pandemic.
I’m voting “yes” on 6C — 56 library districts in CO can’t be wrong. Districts are a popular form of governance in Colorado, and those libraries didn’t make cuts during the pandemic.
Patty Stanfield: Libraries: Look up the hill to see success of a district
October 8, 2022, The Daily Camera
In 2001, members of the Nederland community expressed the desire to have a local library. The Nederland Community Library Foundation (NCLF) was created shortly thereafter with the goal of creating and financially supporting a library district. In 2002, the town of Nederland voted to form and fund a library district. Since then, the foundation has successfully helped the Nederland Community Library District first to open a library and then to purchase land on which to build its own building.
We even received a donation of 50 boxes of books from the Boulder Public Library to help us get started. The NCLF then sponsored a successful campaign to finance the construction of a library building, which opened in January 2011. In August 2012, the Foundation and the library jointly purchased an adjacent vacant lot to meet future growth needs. Usage of the library by local residents and visitors has grown steadily over the years.
I have been on the board of the NCLF since moving from Boulder to Nederland in 2018. I’ve been the NCLF Treasurer since 2020 and I am proud to be able to work with our Library District in order to serve the Nederland community by supporting the Nederland Community Library!
When the pandemic hit, Boulder’s libraries took major budget cuts. This didn’t happen to library districts. It didn’t happen in Nederland. That’s because library districts are the most stable form of funding for libraries. And they’ve got clear governance rules laid out in Colorado state law.
For voters wondering how a library district might work for Boulder, you don’t have to look far — just look up the hill. Our library district is thriving, and we wish the same for Boulder.
October 8, 2022, The Daily Camera
As women who grew up never quite fitting the mold of how society says we should think, act and look, we have a special affinity for libraries and their advocates. Libraries don’t just provide knowledge for those who seek it, they provide connection and solidarity for those who don’t fit the status quo.
Even before Boulder was incorporated as a city, local women advocated for community-oriented spaces where people could expand their knowledge and thinking through free access to books. Informal, grassroots “Free Reading Rooms” in the 1800s preceded our city’s public library system and were supported by forward-thinking women who raised funds via bake sales, concerts and door-to-door solicitations.
When the library champions of the late 1800s grew weary of constant fundraising, they formed a coalition of residents to fund a permanent city library. In the early 1900s, library activists’ appeals to Andrew Carnegie finally gained traction and created the first Boulder Library.
Eighty years later, library advocates put two measures on the 1987 ballot. A successful $14 million bond measure created the current Main Library on Arapahoe and the Reynolds branch, finished the Meadows branch, restored library hours, and increased the library’s collections. A companion measure to secure long-term funding for the library failed.
Thirty-five years later, our libraries are doing some of the best work around to reach communities Boulder has historically excluded: low-income residents, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, older adults, non-English-speaking families and people with disabilities. Last month, we visited the Book Rich Environments festival, where children living in affordable housing chose as many free, culturally relevant books as they wanted to take home and keep.
Boulder Public Library works its magic with almost no dedicated funding source. Its budget largely comes from the General Fund of undedicated sales tax revenues. Throughout the years, our library has consistently borne the brunt of disproportionate city budget cuts. As a result, private funding from the Boulder Library Foundation pays for nearly 90% of Boulder Library’s programs, but as our foremothers knew, fundraising cannot keep up with basic operations and building maintenance.
The original Carnegie library is now closed to the public except by appointment. Neither the Reynolds or North Boulder branches are able to open seven days a week. BoulderReads, the library’s nearly 40-year-old adult literacy program, is severely limited due to a lack of steady funding.
Early advocates would likely be shocked at the financial trajectory of our library today. Even as it has continued to be nationally recognized for outstanding programs and service, it is doing so on an unstable, severely restricted budget. While we laud the library staff and volunteers for the heroic effort it takes to do so much with so little, we realize this is not a sustainable path. The current level of funding will not allow for the creation of new programming, it is not sufficient to handle the growing demand for existing services, and it will not pay for the backlog of building maintenance that has staff duct-taping space heaters to the tops of the children’s bookshelves in the winter.
Critics of the library district measure say we must “keep our libraries” in this downward trend of underfunding. We strongly disagree. We owe it to early Boulderites, who recognized 150 years ago that libraries are essential to the “welfare and upbuilding of a community,” to be intentional about the stewardship of our libraries.
Knowledge is power and a tool for fighting oppression in all forms. Without the working class, women, BIPOC, disabled and LGBTQ+ communities who fought against the idea that only the wealthy few should have access to knowledge, many of us would not be where we are today. We hope that in another 150 years, Boulderites will look back at 2022 as the year we enabled our libraries to flourish in a time when our community needed shared spaces and free access to knowledge more than ever.
Today, as our rights are increasingly threatened and stripped away, as book banning and censorship are on the rise, we know our foremothers would be proud of everyone working to strengthen our libraries. We hope you’ll join us in voting “yes” on measure 6C.
Lauren Folkerts and Nicole Speer are advocates for free knowledge and gathering spaces, who believe that libraries empower communities. They are members of Boulder City Council but are writing in their personal capacities.
October 7, 2022, The Daily Camera
Boulder prides itself on being a forward-thinking community that embraces positive change, advances educational access and tackles challenging issues head-on. And Boulder has a lot to boast when it comes to the incredible amenities, stunning parks and popular venues available to residents and visitors. The beauty of Boulder comes, in part, from the investments this community has made over the course of many generations.
Boulderites have the chance to vote their values once again this year to make further investments in our community. On the ballot this year, voters will be deciding whether to strengthen local democracy, protect our neighbors from climate impacts and invest in our libraries.
Taken in isolation, each of these issues stands on its own with great importance, but the whole picture is even greater than the sum of its parts. Looking at these issues holistically brings up the concept of “social infrastructure”, a framework outlined in NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg’s book “Palaces for the People.”
Communities with strong social infrastructure are ones with robust public spaces and strong social protections. Klinenberg defines it as “the physical elements of community that act as a conduit to bring people together and build social capital.”
Communities that have proven to be more resilient and better equipped to tackle social inequality, polarization and even climate disaster, are ones with strong social infrastructure. As an example: Klinenberg describes the fatal 1995 heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people. He found that the highest rates of death were in low-income, highly segregated neighborhoods. But the lowest rates of death were also found to be in segregated, low-income neighborhoods, in some cases only a street apart from the ones that fared far worse. And, some lower-income neighborhoods experienced higher survival rates than their more affluent counterparts. Klinenberg wanted to know why.
He discovered that, as hard infrastructure like power, transit and water broke down, social infrastructure was a determining factor in survival rates:
“Densely populated (areas with) vibrant commercial strips and social networks, community gardens, parks and well-tended sidewalks … drew people out of overheated homes and into the streets, shops, gardens, parks, and into libraries, too: places where there were things to do and friends to meet,” according to a New York Times article about Klinenberg’s work.
Public libraries are social infrastructure. They serve as cooling centers, places to get information, places to connect with others. This year, our libraries have the chance to finally be put on a stable funding path via measure 6C, which will increase their overall budget by $2 million, enough to restore operating hours at branches and the makerspace, re-start paused programs, and re-engage in partnerships and outreach with our schools and communities. Before the library’s budget was slashed in 2020, it was doing weekly outreach to mobile home communities. Our library is a community connector, and we strongly support funding it properly through measure 6C.
But social infrastructure isn’t limited to tangible things. This concept can be expanded to include policies that make it easier for people to participate in civic life in their community. Local decision-making works best — in fact, democracy works best — when more people are involved in it. Measure 2E will move our local elections to even years, where participation numbers double. General election years, like this year, simply draw more people out because there is more visibility on issues, more public reminders to vote and more overall support for people to cast their votes during even years. When more people vote, our community’s needs and desires are better represented in the outcomes of those votes. We strongly support increasing voter engagement through measure 2E.
Finally, we cannot delay action on climate mitigation, and that’s why we must advance our climate response by voting yes on measure 2A. In order to protect our neighbors from future flood disaster in South Boulder, we strongly oppose the repeal of CU South and urge voters to cast a “no” vote on measure 2F so that Boulder can proceed with the development of much-needed housing and flood protections in our community.
This year, let’s strengthen Boulder’s infrastructure and continue making the necessary investments Boulder needs so that our community continues to fulfill its commitments to being inclusive, accessible and resilient.
Kristen Eller is a member of the steering committee for the Boulder Progressives, a grassroots organization that advocates for policies that protect human rights and advance social and environmental justice at the local level.
Angela Bowman: Vote ‘yes’ on library district
October 6, 2022, Boulder Weekly
I will vote “yes” on measure 6C to fund our libraries because right now, wealth inequality is at an all-time high, attacks on public schools and libraries are nearly a weekly occurrence, and our community is polarized and bombarded with misinformation and “alternative facts.”
As a single teen mom, the Boulder Public Library was a key resource in helping me find a job after getting my GED and associate degree. I was able to research local businesses and find books on resume writing. As a parent and grandparent, the library has been a go-to space to connect with other parents, get out of the house and engage in activities with other kids, and participate in community events.
Libraries level the playing field for everyone. As a formerly low-income parent scraping by in Boulder, I can attest to how invaluable the libraries are to someone living in poverty. They break down barriers to technology and cultivate a sense of community with free and low-cost programs. Libraries are also key partners for our schools providing collaboration opportunities of all sizes.
But Boulder libraries are under direct threat right now due to underfunding, as are many libraries in the state that are dependent on a city or county general fund. A library district provides a successful and stable source of funding as evidenced by the many robust library districts in our state. They offer vital programs and hours that aren’t under threat of city budget cuts.
Our libraries are currently operating at 2002 funding levels, adjusted for inflation, yet they are trying their best. We need to give them a stable funding path so that they can do what they are meant to do: provide equal access to information to everyone. Vote “yes” on measure 6C.
Steven Frost: Our library needs sustainable, stable, reliable funding
October 6, 2022, Boulder Weekly
We all know that Pearl Street and the Flatirons are icons of our city. These locations serve as a welcoming pad for thousands of tourists each year, but for locals, the library is where you find the heart of Boulder. It is truly one of the perks of living in this city, and, in particular, its makerspace, BLDG61, is truly special among all it offers. However, declining sales tax receipts, bouncing budgets, and staffing cuts have limited the opportunities it is able to offer the community.
When it opened in 2016, many people were not sure what role a makerspace should/could play in a public library. Many asked if it was the library’s role to provide maker-based education. Thanks to the vision of the library director, his staff and support from the Boulder Library Foundation, BLDG61 was launched and quickly became one of the most popular library resources. Now only a few years later, cities across our state have followed suit. This model of hands-on education has become a norm, and for many cities, Boulder was the model to follow. This type of progressive programming requires sustained support. Sadly, bouncing budgets and staffing cuts have limited the hours of operation and growth of BLDG61.
When my husband and I moved to Boulder in 2015 for jobs at CU, I only had a few friends in Colorado. While the school provided me with a new community, finding my place in the city was difficult. I describe myself as an indoor cat in a city of mountain dogs. Boulder was the third place I moved to in less than 10 years. I wanted to put down roots, but it was tough to find my people here. In February 2016, as the makerspace was about to open, I ran into a library employee and we started talking about a project I was part of in California called the Sewing Rebellion. She asked me if I’d like to bring it to Boulder and host it in the makerspace. I said yes and before I knew it I’d found my people.
The Colorado Sewing Rebellion was popular and attracted 20-50 participants every month from spring 2016 to fall 2019. With the help of library staff, I would teach people to mend their clothes, follow patterns, design Halloween costumes and tailor garments to their sizes. We created accessories from leftover streetlight banners, collaborated with community artists and even hosted a popular workshop that showed people how to put pockets into dresses and skirts. Like many of the programs BLDG61 offers, it hasn’t returned since 2019 due to a decrease in budget, staff size and limited hours of operation.
Today, if you walk into the makerspace during its open hours (three days a week), you will see the 3D printers and laser cutters humming along as expected. You will also see small business owners embroidering T-shirts, people mending their clothes, parents working with children on class projects, and staff teaching people to use complex software. The BLDG61 staff creates a welcoming learning environment that, as a professor at CU, I model my own classrooms after. You can’t just put a laser cutter with a manual in a room and hope people will figure it out. The staff must be composed of people who possess a broad range of educational and technical skills. The library’s current dependence on sales tax has made long-time programming, promoting current staff and the creation of new positions much more difficult. A library district will allow long-term planning and a more stable place for people to build community, work and learn.
Even without my deep ties to BLDG61, I would support the creation of a Library District by voting yes on 6C. This is an opportunity for our city to invest in its future and those who will create it. Voting yes on 6C will improve Boulder and support our creative, marginalized and entrepreneurial neighbors. We cannot be a society that thinks about our city as just a place to lay our heads, buy stuff and go out to dinner. We are not a bedroom community, we are not just a tourist destination. We are a city of innovation and creativity. As a community, we share a set of progressive values that are reflected in the library, its programs and its patrons. Our library needs sustainable, stable and reliable funding, so please vote yes on 6C.
Steven Frost (they/them) is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at CU Boulder and faculty director of the B2 Center for Media, Arts, and Performance. Their research focuses on textiles, queer studies, pop culture, and community development. They serve on the Boulder Library Commission and Library Foundation. Frost is co-founder of the Experimental Weaving Residency, Slay the Runway and Colorado Sewing Rebellion.
Alycia Murray: Libraries: District would remove burden from the city
October 6, 2022, The Daily Camera
City Councilperson Bob Yates and his Orwellian-named “Save our Libraries” group are engaging in the worst kind of negative campaigning to torch ballot initiative 6C, which would create a sustainably funded library district in Boulder and Boulder County.
As a 25-plus-year resident of Boulder (and as a librarian with nearly 15 years as a substitute in the Boulder Public Library), I find these actions inconceivable. Each year city departments (the library is one) engage in an annual beg-a-thon for funding. Depending on what is happening in the city, and based on the sales tax revenues for the previous year, the library gets more or less, but rarely enough to meet the demand, as Boulder (and Boulder County) have continued to grow and the city tries to meet other critical demands.
The library has automated many services, library workers wear more hats than ever before, and the library foundation steps in to pay for nearly all programming, but despite all these efforts, Boulder Public Library’s funding is neither adequate nor sustainable. Librarians are like teachers — they work in the library because they believe in the mission — but just because library workers provide great service (often with a smile!), it does not mean that the library is well-funded nor that we are meeting the needs of the community, especially those who might benefit most.
Creating a library district would mean Boulder Public Library would be one department off of the city’s books, one department that would no longer be a cost center for the city. Why do Bob Yates and his group cry the equivalent of “everything is fine/change is scary/no new taxes!”? It’s unconscionable politics. Vote “yes” on 6C, fund our libraries, and let Yates know that we expect more from our politicians.
Corey Kohn: Libraries are the center of our communities
October 6, 2022, The Daily Camera
Boulder is known for many things. A world-class university, incredible parks and trailways, high-performing school districts, and an award-winning library system. Those of us who have started and grown small businesses here understand the value of calling Boulder home for many of these reasons.
But we are struck by the situation happening to the Boulder Public Library. Decades of underfunding have led to closed branches and limited programs and services. We see strong libraries as vital to a thriving, diverse community, and this is why we support this year’s ballot measure to form a library district.
Libraries are the center of our communities and one of the last non-consumerist public spaces we have. There are not many other places in town where you can reserve a room to study or work, complete with wifi, presentation screens and a closed door. There are not many other spaces where you can launch your business using professional equipment and tools. Not many other spaces where you can sit, think, watch, read, write, create, listen and simply “be,” without anyone telling you to buy something and move on. Libraries are remarkable, revolutionary institutions in this way. And supporting them must be intentional.
Because without intentional support, we end up where we are today. Today, our Boulder libraries are operating on reduced hours, with reduced staff, a reduced books and digital materials budget, offering reduced services, all despite growing demand.
According to the May progress report to the Boulder Library Commission (the appointed board that oversees the library’s operations), new cardholders have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, while door counts have doubled what they were last year in Q1. Book checkouts grew by 40% over 2021, and attendance to storytimes and classes grew by 57% over the first quarter of 2021.
The BLDG 61 makerspace, which gives people the tools to launch and run a business, is open only a couple of days a week now. This summer, the NoBo corner branch closed on Mondays due to staff shortages. Cornerstone programs like BoulderReads, the library’s 40-year adult literacy program, are severely limited.
Even though the City’s 2023 budget promises to restore funding for cuts made in 2020, the library will still be operating at 2002 funding levels, adjusted for inflation. The struggle to compete with other City services like fire and public safety will continue, with the library almost always losing out. Our library deserves adequate, predictable and fair funding.
Library districts create this predictability because they are based on property taxes that allow the library to grow along with the community it serves.
Opponents of the district have asserted that library district governance is an issue, but we think voters will agree that Colorado’s nearly 60 other library districts are proof positive that library districts work. Their governing boards are appointed by elected officials and have one job: to focus on running a great library!
We, the members of the community built and paid for our libraries. Community members before us over the last 100 years got grants and raised money specifically to build these libraries. Those buildings will remain in service to this very same community into the future.
The proposed library district includes a plan to upgrade them to meet current energy codes, leaving a low carbon footprint so they can adapt to climate change. Does the city have a funding plan to even maintain the buildings in their current state? Take a look around Colorado, and you’ll see that the library systems with green, sustainable buildings — Greeley, Thornton, Brighton, Parker, Highlands Ranch — are all library districts.
We must be intentional about one of our community’s most beloved, equitable and necessary institutions. Our libraries are part of why Boulder is home. If we do nothing and keep our libraries in the state they’re in now, we stand to lose even more in the future. Please join us in voting “yes” on the library district.
Corey Kohn is the CEO and co-founder of Dojo4. Nichole Nurenberg is the founder and CEO of Jai Mix. Emily KenCairn is the founder and principal at Regenerative Pathways.
Rachel Daly: Banned books: Voters have opportunity to fight censorship
October 5, 2022, The Daily Camera
National Banned Books Week was last month, and I was pleased to read so much coverage in the Daily Camera about it. It’s troubling that book banning is on the rise, even resulting in libraries closing, librarians being threatened with jail time and armed mobs showing up at school board meetings. We live in precarious times for democracy.
The incoming president of the American Library Association, Emily Drabinski, said last month on Twitter that “Underfunding libraries is slow-motion book banning,” and it’s been on my mind ever since.
Our libraries and schools are only as strong as the investments we make in them, and those investments must be intentional ones. Without investment, our public institutions can’t withstand the waves of attacks that seek to block access to information, important ideas, identities, and topics about race, gender and religion.
This year, we have ballot measures for both libraries and schools, so voters will have a concrete opportunity to fight these growing waves of censorship and authoritarianism happening across the country. This is especially true for the Boulder Library, on the ballot as Measure 6C. The library has been chronically underfunded and is struggling to keep its branches open regularly due to staffing cuts, but Measure 6C will finally put it on a long-term, predictable funding path. I hope my neighbors will join me in voting “yes” for both libraries and schools, because without our public institutions, access to information and freedom to read become based on what you can pay for, and that will hurt the most vulnerable among us.
Ryan Welsh: Library district: Don’t wait another decade to invest in services
October 2, 2022, The Daily Camera
I recently heard someone say we can’t sustain more taxes for services because costs are already high. But Colorado has one of the lowest property tax rates in the entire country, especially compared to what my parents pay in Connecticut. Unlike ordinary increases in our property taxes due to inflating assessed home values, the 4% proposed for the library this year will bring us tangible, usable, popular services. I’m particularly looking forward to musical story time with my daughter (now five months old). Investing in our libraries means investing in shared social goods that let us build and invest directly in our community.
The library has been underfunded for decades, and that trajectory will continue getting worse if we don’t intentionally invest in it now. Historically, the library has been told “now isn’t the right time” or “not this year” — it’s always the first service to be cut and the last to be restored. The library district measure on ballots this fall has taken many years of effort, with expert guidance and direction to get here.
Anyone can go to the city’s website to see what their annual cost will be. For my family, the cost will be about $191 per year to support lifelong learning services, literacy programs, limitless access to books, all the e-books I need for help raising a kid and a public space where my daughter and I can go anytime and stay as long as we like. I’m excited to bike to the new North Boulder branch (it looks amazing), not to mention restored hours at all branches and at the Makerspace.
I’ll be voting “yes” on measure 6C because our libraries shouldn’t have to wait another decade for the community to invest in the next generation.
Joanne Sullivan: Library district: The next crisis will cut even deeper
October 1, 2022, The Daily Camera
Looking on the library’s website, the North Boulder corner library branch is now closed on Thursdays and Fridays, in addition to the short-term Monday closures this summer. As a family, we rely on the library as a safe, peaceful place to be after school.
Also, I see that George Reynolds is closed on Mondays year-round now. Carnegie Library is only accessible by appointment. The fact that our libraries can’t operate on regular hours due to the fluctuations of city funding is not acceptable. We wouldn’t accept it for our school system, we wouldn’t accept it for our fire services. We wouldn’t accept it for our parks or police.
By kicking the can down the road on library funding, we’re doing real damage to our beloved library system that serves so many of us daily. The next crisis that hits will cut even deeper. I support ballot measure 6C to form a library district this fall because I think our libraries deserve to have predictable funding.
Michael Caplan: Library district: Decades of underfunding are going to start to show
September 30, 2022, The Daily Camera
I spoke with a friend the other day who didn’t know that Prospector, the unified catalog of over 30 million materials (books, movies, music) beyond Boulder Library’s own collections, was restored after having been cut in 2020. Many people had been upset when this service was canceled during the pandemic budget cuts that struck the library harder than any other city service (the library took 17% of all budget cuts in the city in 2020, despite representing only 3% of the city’s overall budget).
Now that Prospector is back, though, I hope people who really love that service and other services the Boulder Public Library provides understand that this feast and famine cycle of the city budget is the cause for these resources becoming unreliably available. It’s no way to treat a community resource as valuable as our award-winning library. Libraries are built and designed to be reliable, stable institutions and their funding should reflect that.
This is why I support the library district that will be on ballots this fall as measure 6C. The proposed 4% property tax increase is worth it so that we don’t have to wonder which services are cut, coming back, going away again or in danger of the chopping block, like Prospector. Library districts are a common form of governance in the state of Colorado, and I’m pleased to see the entire BVSD board in support, as well as state Sen. Steve Fenberg, state representatives Judy Amabile and Edie Hooton, and the Boulder County NAACP, to name a few.
Our libraries deserve attention this year because decades of underfunding are really going to start to show, and Boulder deserves great, adequately funded libraries.
Dr. Julie Lundquist: Libraries: Districts are innovative, successful governance models
September 29, 2022, The Daily Camera
Boulder values education and equity — and libraries provide public access to educational resources for all. Proposal 6C would provide Boulder’s libraries with stable funding by adopting a common form of library governance in Colorado: a library funding district. The current inadequate funding for the library is from the city’s general fund, which depends on sales tax, and so fluctuates from year to year — and is a regressive tax. The library district would be based on property taxes, and so will be more stable from year to year, is a progressive tax, and allows the library to grow together with the community it serves.
Many communities across the state support their libraries via library districts, including Fort Collins, Erie, Nederland, Lyons, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Douglas County, Adams County and Arapahoe County. Colorado law specifies that library districts are governed with a board of trustees appointed by both city and county elected officials and that they are managed transparently, with budgetary reporting requirements directly to taxpayers.
When COVID hit, Boulder’s libraries closed for two months. Because the current funding model depends on sales tax, the libraries have yet to reopen to their pre-pandemic hours of operation. About sixty staff positions were cut, resulting in literacy, outreach, and makerspace programming disappearing. My beloved neighborhood library, the George Reynolds Branch, is still closed every Monday. By contrast, library districts across the state, like Anythink Libraries in Adams County, weathered the storm without cuts to staff, operating hours or programming. For me, the choice is simple: As an educated community that values access for all, we should invest in our libraries by using one of Colorado’s most effective — and successful — library governance models. That’s why I’m voting “yes” on measure 6C to fund our libraries.
Amy Muller: Library district: Set our libraries on stable funding path for the future
September 28, 2022, The Daily Camera
Library funding is on the ballot this year for the first time in a long time, and I enthusiastically support the initiative. I love going to the library with my daughter. Especially when she was little, we would go to the children’s section and spend time looking for new books, playing on the bean bag chairs, and performing on the stage influenced by the stories she read. Now that she is older, I know that formative time spent in the library fostered her continued love of reading.
We frequent the art exhibitions in the main library which inspire and educate on topics not readily covered at school or in the media.
While our library wins national and statewide awards and does amazing things for people of every age, we should bear in mind that it does all that despite decades of underfunding and budget cuts. We can’t expect our libraries to continue delivering so many wonderful services to us without setting them on a stable funding path for the future.
I’ve heard that the George Reynolds branch in South Boulder isn’t open on Mondays anymore, for instance. Other branches have had their hours cut. Our libraries are amazing, yes. And they are asking us for support this year. I’m going to vote yes on measure 6C this year to fund our libraries.
Tom Myer: Library district: Protect Boulder from rising tide of ignorance and autocratic fervor
September 26, 2022, The Daily Camera
My wife and I moved to Gunbarrel in 2019. We love living on Colorado’s Front Range, where we fly fish, snowshoe, hike and bike. Boulder is a paradise for those who love the outdoors.
Boulder has also long positioned itself as a bastion of progressive values: social justice, improvement of the human condition and the furtherance of public goods. A strong public library with stable funding, which is exactly what’s offered by a library district (measure 6C on November ballots), is central to all those values.
We are both English majors, so it’s no surprise that we love books, reading and libraries. Both of us were raised in military families that didn’t have a lot of material wealth, but the communities we lived in preserved and grew their libraries, giving us access to a universe of knowledge and entertainment.
As the saying goes, “libraries are the last great unbroken promise of a democratic society” and if you look around at the state of our country, libraries and all they represent are under siege. In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in anti-democratic notions, such as campaigns to ban books and defund libraries, and the spreading of mis- and disinformation. And all of it coming from a group of people with perceived grievances that, like it or not, mirror the shameful hatred and bigotry of 1930s Germany.
Access to education through our libraries is fundamental to securing the availability of accurate information. Boulder must take an important step in protecting itself from the rising tide of ignorance and autocratic fervor by voting to fund our libraries. Voting “yes” on Measure 6C will stabilize the public library’s funding, allow for continued maintenance and upkeep of facilities, and increase services to the public (including a much-needed branch in Gunbarrel).
Susan Gerhart: Libraries: Nederland’s district shows how board can succeed
September 24, 2022, The Daily Camera
For twenty-plus years, the Nederland Community Library, a district library, has been very successfully overseen by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees. The founders of the library deliberately created it this way to keep the running of the library out of the hands of politicians who may or may not be interested in library affairs. NCL is a vibrant, bustling place and the heart of a community. Go look.
Guest opinion: David Ensign: Boulder’s Library District is a measure worth our support
September 24, 2022, The Daily Camera
Boulder area residents have an important ballot initiative to weigh in on this November. We are being asked whether a dedicated tax district is our preferred way to support our public library system.
Having served on Boulder’s Planning Board for five years, I’ve been fortunate to dig deep into how city staff and volunteers envision protecting and expanding our treasured community library resources. I’ve been inspired as I’ve learned about the critical role libraries play in offering great public spaces and what assets they are in creating dynamic complete neighborhoods.
Between 2018 and 2020 the Planning Board addressed revisions to the Public Library Master Plan, had multiple reviews of the North Boulder Library and got an early glimpse into the possibility of creating a library district for more stable funding. I’ve witnessed the resilience of our dedicated library champions in the face of difficult economic and logistical challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic. I’ve acquired both an appreciation of the services our library system currently provides and enthusiasm about what it can become with adequate financial backing.
I’ve voiced my support for the library district in the past and continue to strongly support the formation of the district as we head toward a public vote on the issue.
Much criticism of forming a library district revolves around the question of increasing taxes. Anti-tax ideology has taken hold in a big way nationally since the Reagan revolution of the 1980s, and even in liberal enclaves like Boulder County, we encounter deep skepticism when it comes to increasing the amount of dollars we put into our public amenities. As voters analyze the library question with a skeptical eye, I hope they will also give adequate time to thinking about both the counterarguments to the naysaying and the benefits that will come from this modest increase to our property tax bills.
Though it may not seem like it as we experience dramatic increases in home values, Boulder County remains well below the national average in property tax rates. Since taxing property is less regressive than adding to our sales tax, it makes sense to consider a funding mechanism that will spread the burden proportional to the amount of property taxpayers own. Personally, I’d love to see an even more progressive rate structure applied to the library district that would have scaled rates based on property value, but we don’t have the ability to do that in our property tax code system today. That would be a battle for another day, and this district proposal seems to be the most appropriate and equitable given current options.
Arguments have been made that funding the district will unfairly burden low-income families and fixed-income seniors. But these arguments miss the fact that these populations are among those that benefit hugely from a robust library system with excellent programming that benefits everyone. We can and should continue to work on tax relief programs like property tax exemptions for seniors and financial assistance to underserved residents. But we can do that while still providing access to an outstanding library system to all community members.
Another factor that I sense may influence attitudes toward the library district proposal is a bias toward private philanthropy over public government-based solutions. As someone who has served on numerous non-profit boards and who has financially supported organizations that I care deeply about, I appreciate the role that non-profits can play in taking on critical needs in a targeted way and by filling in gaps that public entities have not addressed. But I feel strongly that libraries should be a source of pride for everyone in our community, and that public funding is the most powerful and stable way to maximize their value. Let’s not let social media and destructive discourse that demonizes public solutions destroy our faith in our most effective institutions.
Here in Boulder County, we pride ourselves in being at the forefront of furthering progressive ideals and holding our elected officials accountable for implementing our ideals in public programs and policies. The formation of a library district is an opportunity for us to continue this proud legacy. Let’s step up and vote “yes” on the library district ballot question in November.
Guest opinion: Ashley Stolzmann and Elise Jones: Our community is stronger when we have a strong library
September 23, 2022, The Daily Camera
As current and former elected officials, we have seen firsthand how libraries provide essential services — from supporting early childhood literacy, to providing technology solutions at no cost to users, to serving as gathering places for people from all walks of life. They serve us quietly in good times, and serve as anchors when disaster strikes. We know our communities are stronger when they have strong libraries, and that is why we support the Boulder Library District.
One thing we’ve learned as elected leaders is that we need to provide dedicated funding for the services people rely on in times of crisis.
Libraries serve as “second responders” in our communities. During the pandemic, the Boulder Public Library distributed hundreds of wifi hotspots to low-income households. After the Marshall Fire, area libraries provided information and refuge for displaced residents and workers.
But just when we need libraries most, we often throw them into competition for a shrinking pool of resources. On top of that, sales tax revenues, the primary funding source for most city libraries, are particularly unpredictable.
Library districts operate with dedicated property tax funding, which provides a buffer against rapid changes. In economic downturns districts still have to make difficult decisions, but what funding they do collect goes straight to needed services. Having a library — and keeping it open can help a community rebound more quickly when disaster strikes.
Our work in city and county leadership has also shown us the importance of regional thinking. Our Boulder County communities may have started as self-contained towns and cities, but their growth has created service gaps and strained the municipal libraries many of us know and love.
In the case of Boulder’s library, the 2018 Master Plan found that households in unincorporated areas of the county use the library at similar rates as city residents and that three in ten active cardholders live outside of city limits. These residents travel long distances for library services and are not part of the library’s tax base. They have little say in how libraries operate and have no clear path to improve their access.
A library district is an equitable solution. Everyone living within its boundaries contributes funding equally, and everyone has a claim on library services. As a district, the Boulder library, which has struggled to serve its true service area with municipal funding, could scale up programming to meet demand. And the community of Gunbarrel would finally get a branch library, something the City of Boulder could never provide.
Cities like Boulder are rightly proud of the library systems they’ve built, and creating a district does nothing to threaten that investment. Library districts can lease major assets like library buildings, and Colorado Library Law restricts their use to library services. And as an “establishing entity,” Boulder’s City Council and the County Commissioners will appoint and remove trustees who will oversee the district. In this way, library districts can respect local history while extending access to new and growing communities.
We believe it’s time to invest in resilience and ‘social infrastructure’ in our community, and a library district is a good value. A Boulder-area library district would cost homeowners roughly $23 per $100,000 in taxable value (which lags market value) each year, or less than $10 per month for a home with a taxable value of $500,000.
For residents and small business owners struggling with rising property values, the state legislature has provided $700 million in tax relief for 2023 and 2024. Meanwhile, Colorado’s existing Senior Property Tax Deferral and Senior Homestead Exemption programs can help seniors living on fixed incomes. That’s important, because libraries promote equity in our communities, and the way we fund them should align with that goal.
We are proud to stand with organizations like the NAACP Boulder County, ELPASO (Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes) and El Centro AMISTAD, and the Boulder Area Labor Council — as well as current and former state representatives, city councilors, and school board members in supporting the formation and funding of a library district for Boulder’s libraries this fall.
Strong libraries promote literacy, equity and community, and we need to ensure they’re accessible to all of us in a changing world.
Joanne McIntyre: Library district: Direct funding is needed to protect access
September 20, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m dismayed to see Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer actively opposing proper funding for our libraries. His argument, in part, says “…we may wish we still had the budget oversight flexibility to allocate those library funding resources to address emergency needs.” It might not be apparent, but this is essentially an argument in favor of treating our award-winning libraries as a grab-bag slush fund for when other projects take priority. This is exactly why dedicated funding via a library district is needed.
This week’s Camera edition also included a front-page article stating that the American Library Association sees an unprecedented uptick in book banning this year. As our libraries fight for access for everyone, why does the chamber think they should do it on unpredictable, revocable funding? I think public libraries are essential, not merely temporary line items to raid whenever we need to.
Another letter from Saturday stated that libraries are obsolete because everything is online. Before the pandemic hit and caused the library to take the biggest cuts across the city, its visitorship was reaching 3,000 people a day. I think most of us would agree that a digital-only community is not an ideal, welcoming, restorative, joyful, creative, engaging or desirable way to live. Public spaces like libraries make our communities all these things, and they make access open to everyone.
People love and use our libraries. The only way our libraries will become obsolete is if opponents succeed in getting voters to reject the funding they need. I’m a “yes” vote on measure 6C to form a library district.
Guest opinion: Aaron Brockett and Junie Joseph: A district will secure the future for Boulder’s public library
September 16, 2022, The Daily Camera
Libraries are a thread that connects all of us to the community and the world. Each of us has had our own rich journey through them. For Mayor Brockett, the books in the library were a way to learn about the world beyond his small town. For Councilmember Joseph, the library was a way to learn about the American experience as a recent immigrant. And we know that for many others, libraries provide an opportunity to journey beyond the limits of their daily lives and circumstances.
As community leaders committed to education and equity, we want the best future for Boulder’s public library. And we agree with the multiple commissions and working groups who’ve studied the issue in recent years that the best way to secure that future is through a library district.
Through our work on city budgets, we know that our public library is falling behind. Despite growing wealth and population in our community, library funding has remained stagnant for years, and the loss of sales tax revenues during the pandemic forced painful cuts to services and programs. Because of the limitations on the city’s General Fund, we’ve been unable to support our library when we need it the most
Meanwhile, a large number of library patrons — nearly a third! — live outside of Boulder’s city limits. The library’s service area and the funding base don’t match, making it even more difficult to meet community demand.
A library district — which is on the ballot this November — would create a regional library system, both funded by and responsible to a broader base of library users. Its projected annual budget of $18.78 million would constitute a 20% increase in library system spending. That’s enough to restore hours, staff and programming, address maintenance backlogs, and to add a new branch library in Gunbarrel. And this budget — based on property taxes rather than sales taxes — would be more stable in the face of economic swings.
We often hear that having a municipal library is a point of pride in Boulder, and we too love our long history of civic investment in our libraries. But we also recognize that the best public libraries evolve to meet their communities’ needs.
Many of our peer cities on the Front Range are now part of library districts. In fact, the majority of Colorado library users are now served by districts. From Fort Collins to Adams County to Colorado Springs, there are many successful models to follow. And Colorado’s nationally-recognized Library Law requires a high level of transparency and accountability from these single-purpose districts, from twice-yearly financial reports to oversight of appointed trustees.
Another major benefit of a library district is that it relieves pressure on the city’s overburdened General Fund (the 45% of Boulder’s budget that is not committed to specific departments and programs). As members of the City Council, we are committed to having a robust and public conversation about how to invest the up to $10 million in funding that may become available.
Securing our library’s future gives us a rare opportunity to invest in critical needs. This could include fire mitigation, improved emergency response times, human services, or climate resilience, to name just a few.
Libraries are an essential part of our shared future. They preserve our history and share our cultures. They teach our children to read. They provide equitable access to the internet, books, equipment and programming to those who can’t afford it. They help immigrants learn English and pass their citizenship exams. They help adults earn their GED. They provide a safe space for seniors and families to gather and socialize.
As elected officials, we’re challenged every day to find the most effective and equitable ways to support our community’s values. A Boulder Public Library District is an easy choice, and the best way to ensure our libraries remain accessible and strong for generations to come.
Mindy Kittay: Library district: Stable funding allows planning for the future
September 11, 2022, The Daily Camera
Before opening a clothing store in downtown Boulder, I worked for many years as a public library administrator. During that time, I was employed by three independent library districts — much like the one being proposed here in Boulder — and saw first-hand the difference that districts make in the communities they serve.
Public libraries of all kinds deliver a positive return on taxpayer dollars. For every dollar invested, they typically generate $2 to $10 in local outcomes. And independent library districts typically do better. That’s because stable funding allows them to plan for the future. Library districts are also flexible: they can adjust their services and programming when needed without getting tangled in city bureaucracies.
Because library districts are funded by property taxes, rather than volatile sales tax revenues, they can also weather economic downturns better than their city-funded counterparts. This means they can keep their doors open when the community needs them the most. The situation in Boulder illustrates this point. While the Boulder Public Library still hasn’t restored all services cut during the pandemic, district libraries in other Colorado communities bounced back quickly after public health measures were relaxed.
Finally, districts match a library’s service area and tax base with its patron base. More people who use library services help to pay for them, and serving them, in turn, becomes part of the library’s mission. Districts ensure that libraries are both of and for their communities.
Having seen library districts operate successfully in literally dozens of Colorado communities, I’m surprised that Boulder has taken so long to consider this model. When we vote on the concept this November, I will be an enthusiastic yes.
Linda Tate: Library District: We need a sustainable financial approach
September 10, 2022, The Daily Camera
Before moving to Boulder 16 years ago, I lived in West Virginia, where I spent several years serving as the president of the Board of Trustees of my local public library. While I was president, we struggled with the financial implications of having our library tied to the budget of our local municipality, even though our service area went far beyond the boundaries of our town.
Now I see the same thing happening to the Boulder Public Library.
A library district could significantly increase the financial resources available to the library, and it could provide a way for patrons who live outside Boulder’s city limits to feel more ownership in the library they are already using. Almost one-third of the library’s current cardholders live outside city limits in places like Gunbarrel, Eldorado Springs and in the Foothill communities along the western edge of town. Yet these library patrons are not part of the actual tax base of the library.
The Boulder Public Library meets many of our larger community’s needs — needs that go far beyond access to books. Cultural events, literacy programs like BoulderReads, public space, Internet access, the Makerspace and so many other offerings are essential to the civic health of our area.
I am deeply grateful for the existence of the Boulder Public Library and the excellent services it offers to residents of Boulder and to patrons outside the city limits. However, for the library to continue to offer these services, we must come up with a more sustainable financial approach. Having seen two beloved libraries struggle with municipal funding, I’ll be voting “yes” to create a regional library district in November.
Guest opinion: Vikas Reddy: Library district creates value for today’s businesses, opportunities for tomorrow’s creators
September 9, 2022, The Daily Camera
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 of a fully-functioning community. It’s important not only for helping attract and retain 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 five days a 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.
Vikas Reddy is the co-founder and CEO of LightTwist and the co-founder of Occipital. Krista Marks is the CTO of Saga Education and the co-founder and CEO of Woot Math Kerpoof (now Disney). Yoav Lurie is an angel investor and advisor and the co-founder and CEO of SimpleEnergy (now Uplight). Bryan Birsic is the co-founder and CEO of Fundboard and the co-founder of Wunder Capital.
Mark Van Akkeren: Library District: Let’s support our neighbors and our democracy
September 8, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m confused and disappointed by the anti-library campaign that is opposing Boulder’s funding and formation of a library district. I mean, who hates libraries?
The opposition campaign is led by two conservative former city councilors who are also long-time members of PLAN-Boulder. It’s sad to see how far PLAN has fallen. It was once an organization that built lasting legacies, yet now seems to define itself only by what it opposes: progress. In addition to opposing libraries, they are also against life-saving flood control, and against having more voters participate in local democracy.
Libraries are one of our community’s most beloved institutions, right alongside parks and Open Space. Boulder residents see what PLAN does not, in recent polling 78% of likely voters said they would vote for the expansion of library funding, whereas only 16% were against it. This fall let’s support our libraries, our neighbors and our democracy.
Mary Faltynski: Library District: Let’s vote for the best gift Boulder has to offer
September 4, 2022, The Daily Camera
Public libraries have been there for me at every phase of my life. Summer reading challenges as a child. Homework (and flirting) as a teenager. As a young adult, I checked out books on investing, home repair and childbirth. I brought my own children to the library time and time again. Finally, as an empty nester, I check out travel books. I still use the library to expand my world.
There is joy in leaving the library with an armful of books that I, and then a hundred more people after me, will devour. This is a true public good, and it needs public support to work. Forming a library district will provide a stable source of revenue for our libraries so they do not have to compete with the police, emergency services or business priorities.
Currently, in North Boulder, we do not have a full-service library that families can walk to. A tiny corner library struggles to meet the needs of hundreds of families. Unlike other branches, there is no meeting space, technology sharing or even the simple opportunity to browse the stacks. A fully functional NoBo library will change that, but the funding is uncertain unless we make an intentional investment.
The opportunity to read to one’s children, connect them to art and music, and cultivate a love of learning benefits families and the entire community. Children are more prepared for school. Neighbors interact with one another more frequently. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard people say kids today don’t play/read/interact the way we used to, I could fund the library. Let’s vote yes for the library district and provide kids today with the most wholesome, educational, safe gift Boulder has to offer — a fully funded library.
Michelle Denae: Library District: Even though Niwot is mostly excluded, district is still valuable
September 3, 2022, The Daily Camera
I am a resident of Niwot and a supporter of the proposed library district, even though Niwot has been removed from the boundaries. I’m writing because I read an opinion piece from folks in the Lake Valley area who are upset about being included in the district, but who seem to forget that they actually get to vote on it regardless of whether or not they would utilize and benefit from the services provided.
While Niwot is no longer included in the district that goes to ballots this November, I wish I could have voted, because I would have voted yes. The district boundaries included Niwot and surrounding areas in 2019 at the suggestion of the previous county commissioners, who supported the creation of a library district. Plenty of outreach, including in-person community meetings at the Niwot Grange from library representatives and county-led public hearings, has been done over the three ensuing years.
If the district passes, a Gunbarrel branch would be established, which many in Niwot would no doubt use, benefit from and celebrate, including me and my two kids. I urge my fellow county folks to vote yes, and bring the amazing array of benefits that libraries bring closer to home.
Laura Appelbaum: Library District: Support libraries so they can support us
September 2, 2022, The Daily Camera
As a girl, I spent hours in my local public library in Brooklyn, New York. I retreated there every evening to do my homework and read historical fiction and romance novels. I loved the library because it was air-conditioned, quiet and private. It was a safe and happy place for me. Every time I think of that library — or any library — I am filled with the same sense of peace and happiness.
I was fortunate to get a work-study job in my university library for all four years of college. It was a perfect match. I enjoyed the quiet yet stimulating environment. And in graduate school, I spent a lot of time in the library stacks doing research and writing. When I needed a break, I went to the reading room to relax and read for fun. The library was my safe harbor.
But my support for libraries goes beyond my nostalgia for the past. Libraries today fulfill a crucial role, and they do it despite the declining funds we’ve allocated to them from the city’s general fund. Over a million people visit our libraries each year, making them one of the busiest public spaces in all of Boulder. Myself and many of my friends are regular library users.
Libraries are public services, and they require investment. But ultimately, we make a value judgment when we decide we want to invest in those public services. Libraries are high on my list of priorities because libraries have long been a welcoming refuge where I can relax, learn and grow. I want everyone in my Boulder community to have that same opportunity. That’s why I strongly support the measure to create a library district for Boulder’s libraries. Please support our libraries so they can continue to support us.
Loran Lattes: Library District: Let’s stick to the facts on libraries
August 26, 2022, The Daily Camera
As a public elementary school librarian, I teach my students to distinguish between fact and opinion and to verify reliable facts from the sources they use in research. I feel it’s my duty to point out some inaccuracies printed in the Camera recently.
And so I’m writing in response to misinformation promulgated in two recent letters to the editor opposing the Boulder Library District proposal: “Library District: Why fix what’s not broken?” and “Library District: Charging for cards could fund libraries.”
Both authors state the proposal would establish libraries in Niwot, and one goes further, writing, “Adding full collections to Gunbarrel, Niwot and Eldorado Springs is a very expensive proposition.”
The ballot language for this proposal provides for one additional branch only — in Gunbarrel, which is part of Boulder. Niwot was excluded from the final proposal and Eldorado Springs has never been contemplated for a branch.
“Moreover,” one letter states, “the city would donate the existing library buildings and books to the new district.”
This is not part of the proposal and is an issue that City Council would determine later, which makes this letter’s next point sound all the more like a conspiracy theory: “Then, if the library district decided to sell a library branch — which they could do without the city’s consent — the city would have to buy back the same library building they originally gave to the district for free.”
Let’s shelve that notion in the fiction section, shall we?
Chelsea Daughenbaugh: Library districts: The most common governance model in Colorado
August 24, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m confused by library opponents’ arguments about the library district model, which is the most common form of library governance in Colorado. With thriving library districts in Erie, Lyons, Ned, Fort Collins, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Douglas, Adams, Arapahoe and nearly 50 other regions, we have plenty of evidence for how they work, and more importantly, why they work.
The governance rules, stewardship of assets, and financial reporting requirements of library districts are all codified in state law. Why do opponents keep repeating myths? Like about the buildings, which will be leased, not “given away.” It feels like they’re trying to influence voters by intentionally sowing confusion and mistrust. These details were further covered in full at the April 2022 city council meeting.
I’ve also heard that our library is “just fine as-is,” but the pandemic proves this untrue. Boulder library has not recovered from its massive budget cuts in 2020, which have resulted in reduced hours and paused or canceled programs. By contrast, the many library districts across the state did not experience service disruption, layoffs or reduced hours. Library districts work because they are the most transparent and effective model for library governance in the state.
Finally, in a recent letter to this paper, a reader asserted that the district will “establish libraries in other towns.” They are talking about Gunbarrel. As a City of Boulder resident living in Gunbarrel who has made the choice not to use the library because it’s too far to get to, I am not in “other towns.” I am a city resident, living in a growing neighborhood, currently not being served by our library. I hope that voters wade through the misinformation by opponents ahead of the vote this November.
Guest opinion: Claire Kelley: Our libraries are worth the investment
August 20, 2022, The Daily Camera
At the start of the pandemic, even though Boulder Public Library only accounts for 3% of the city’s budget, it took a 16% cut to its budget due to the dramatic decline in sales tax revenue.
If you look around, you will start to notice the cracks in the walls at the Carnegie Library, the reduced hours and programming, the library staff who are stretched thin because their coworkers have been laid off. Do you want to live in a city that doesn’t adequately support its public library system? This situation is untenable, and it is time for us to secure sustainable funding for our Boulder Public Library for good.
This November, voters will get to decide whether the library should move to a property tax-based “library district” model, following the lead of nearly every other library in the state of Boulder’s size and population, including Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Lyons, Nederland, Estes Park, Berthoud, Greeley and Pueblo.
There are already a total of 56 library districts in Colorado for good reason. Establishing a library district via property taxes is the most equitable way to ensure that the library receives sustainable funding to continue to be a precious asset that strengthens our community.
For example, Fort Collins formed their library district in 2006, and as a result, Poudre Valley Library District did not face the same pandemic-related cuts that the Boulder Public Library did.
It’s important for voters to be informed of the details: the proposed property tax is $23 annually per $100,000 in the county-estimated value of your home. That means that if your “actual” home value on the Boulder County Assessor’s Office website is $500,000, you’ll pay less than $10 per month in taxes for a district.
In return, Boulder residents will get:
- Expanded library services, renewed print and digital collections and more programming like storytime, workshops and classes.
- Restored hours and staffing for the Canyon Theater at the main branch and the Carnegie Library for Local History, which are both currently closed, and the opening of the long-awaited North Boulder library.
- Updated and improved library facilities to address delayed maintenance.
The library district would also more appropriately reflect who is actually served by the library, and enable the system to better serve them with new Gunbarrel branch.
Boulder Public Library has won statewide awards despite decades of deprioritization in the city’s budget. If you love the library, supporting the formation of a library district for sustainable and equitable funding is a historic opportunity to give a gift to all members of our community for generations to come.
Kristen Eller: Library district: We love our libraries, let’s act on that
August 13, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m a Gunbarrel resident, in unincorporated Boulder, and I am so excited to be able to have a library in my area through the formation of a library district. I cannot wait to be able to bike to, walk to and use my local library on a daily basis. As a renter, I recognize that the price of forming a library district will be reflected in, at most, a 4% increase in property tax that I will be happy to pay.
I look forward to paying for a service that adds immense value to my community and will be sustainably funded to ensure its continued benefit to the community. Many of us love our libraries, let’s have our actions reflect this.
Guest opinion: Sam Fuqua: Like schools, libraries need independent funding
August 12, 2022, The Daily Camera
The library district proposal is now officially on the ballot this November.
When I was on the school board, one of our ongoing commitments was to communicate the shared value of high-quality public education to the entire community, even though only about 25% to 30% of households in the district actually have children in the K-12 schools at any given time. With our public libraries, it’s a little different, since people of all ages use the library every day. But the current municipal funding model is not working for our libraries. Like our public schools, we need an independent district model to ensure sustainable long-term funding for our library system. Many of the library’s programs have been downsized or discontinued, and are at risk of further cuts.
Here’s some of what the library district proposal will do:
- restore hours to the branches and the BLDG 61 Makerspace;
- restart outreach programs to underserved groups like the immigrant, low-income, Latino and senior members of our community;
- address long-delayed building infrastructure issues;
- reopen the Canyon theater for public use;
- reopen the Carnegie Library, our amazing repository of local history.
A district would also make it possible to stock and staff a new full-size North Boulder Library and — after years of demand — establish a Gunbarrel corner library.
Despite operating on unreliable funding, and despite the rapid increase in demand for services, Boulder’s libraries deliver irreplaceable community value. There’s home delivery to seniors, free access to newspapers both locally and nationally, adult literacy classes, reading tutors, free public meeting rooms, a makerspace where kids and their parents work alongside inventors and entrepreneurs, bilingual storytimes, and citizenship classes for recent immigrants.
All of these current initiatives are in peril.
Some argue that the City of Boulder should simply commit to giving the library more general fund dollars. The problem with this argument is that asking the council to do better with library funding would be a one-year commitment, at best, as councilmembers cycle and political winds shift. When the library fights for funding alongside other critical city departments like police and fire, it almost never wins. And in a crisis like the pandemic, the library bears a lion’s share of cuts due to the loss of sales tax revenues. Those cuts are often permanent.
Because library programs are all at risk of being cut in the current funding model, that leaves supporters with one option: form and fund a district via a vote of the people.
Over 50 library systems in Colorado operate under the district model, including every system with a similar size and patron base as Boulder. It’s the most common form of library governance in the state. This is a proven model that offers the most equitable, reliable and accountable approach to funding our libraries. A board of trustees appointed by the city and county would oversee the library district and ensure transparency in operations.
Over 30% of library cardholders live outside the city. The proposed library district boundary includes most of these cardholders, who live in unincorporated areas of the county adjoining the city limits. The Boulder Library Champions listened to input from the city and county, and have adjusted the district proposal down to 3.5 mills, rather than 3.8, and removed Niwot from the boundaries.
Properly funded libraries can transform communities. Properly funding our library means letting it do the things it’s supposed to be doing: supporting our schools in their efforts to teach kids how to read, providing a space for seniors and families, and allowing every single resident, regardless of income status, access to books and programs. And it means restoring hours to our well-used branches and leveling programs and services back up to match demand.
The promise of public libraries, like public schools, rests on a shared commitment to free and open access, high-quality resources and a belief that helping each person realize their full potential helps our entire community. That’s why I’ll be voting yes on the Boulder library district this November — to ensure the library has the funding it needs to do the work that it does so well.
Guest opinion: Chris Barge: It’s time to defend – not defund – our libraries
August 10, 2022, The Daily Camera
A friend of mine noted the T-shirt I was wearing recently, stamped with the slogan, “Defend Public Libraries.” She’d also seen the “Library District YES” yard sign in front of my house.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” she said. “What’s going on?”
“Our libraries have been underfunded for decades,” I replied. “Voters will finally have a chance to fix that this November.”
“You wouldn’t know the libraries needed money,” she said. “They seem pretty nice to me.”
My friend is a Kindergarten teacher. She has young children herself. Her family frequents our libraries. They see staff doing a great job, in facilities that appear to be well taken care of.
“Yeah, you might not see the need at first,” I told her. “Isn’t that what the parents of your students might say when they walked into your school, if they didn’t know better?”
“Yes, they would,” she said. “From the outside looking in, you wouldn’t know how underfunded our schools are, how I spend my own money buying their kids’ supplies, how understaffed we are.”
“It’s like that with our libraries,” I said.
“OK, I get that. So we should vote yes?”
My friend was an easy sell. I expect some voters will need more persuading.
Here are the facts:
Taxpayer dollars support only 10% of today’s library programs. The Boulder Library Foundation and its donors fund the rest. Despite this support, the library is underfunded by several million dollars annually.
Voters in and around Boulder this November will be asked whether to create a new library district that would provide our libraries with increased, sustainable funding for years to come.
The funding would amount to a roughly 20% increase in tax dollars dedicated to the library, bringing the annual budget to just under $19 million per year. This modest bump would increase library hours, materials and staffing, and would improve outreach to underserved communities. It would fund a new branch in Gunbarrel, staff and stock the new North Boulder branch with books, and allow for overdue building repairs. It would re-open the Canyon Theater, extend the hours of the BLDG 61 maker space, and activate new and improved programming at all the branches.
Better yet, it would give library staff the bandwidth to partner with schools to address the literacy needs of kids who’ve fallen behind during the pandemic. And it would allow the library to serve as a better convener of people struggling to reconnect with one another after years of isolation.
Those are the benefits we’d see at the library. The benefits to city services would be even greater because the $15.5 million in tax dollars required to fund the library next year at only a bare-bones level would no longer be taken from the city’s general fund.
Look around, and imagine what our city could do with the freed-up revenue. Could Parks & Recreation hire more lifeguards and re-open Spruce Pool next summer? Could the city thin more of the forest on our western border to help prevent the next Marshall Fire? Could we take ambulance services in-house and improve response times, saving lives? Could we spend more on our arts and cultural amenities?
These are questions all of us will have a chance to ask and discuss publicly ahead of the November election. Fortunately, our mayor and city council have committed to collecting community input on how these dollars would be spent.
So what would a “Library District YES” vote cost us? About $9.62 per month on a home with a taxable value of $500,000. Put another way, it’s a 4% property tax increase.
Half of all public libraries are governed and funded by districts in Colorado, with no issues. It’s the consensus best practice.
And yet, because this is a tax proposal, we can expect to hear from opponents, who will begin every argument with some version of “Don’t get me wrong, I love libraries…”
It’s up to us this November to decide whether to express this love by defending — or defunding — our public library.
Steve Fenberg: Libraries are the frontlines of democracy. We must fund them.
July 20, 2022, The Boulder Weekly
These are uncertain times. As America faces increasing waves of anti-democratic fervor, Colorado has stood as a bulwark.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done in the Legislature to protect and strengthen democracy, and co-sponsored many of the bills to do so, including: Restoring Voting Rights for Parolees in 2019 and, this year, passing the Colorado Election Security Act and the Election Official Protection Act.
But attempts to undermine our democracy are ongoing, which is why I’m a strong supporter of efforts to create and provide stable funding for an independent Boulder Public Library District. As the Washington Post pointed out earlier this year, our public and school libraries have not been immune to the censorship efforts intended to stifle speech and the free exchange of ideas.
The goal behind recent moves to politicize libraries and limit free access to materials that cover topics like race, gender, and sexual identity is simple: Dismantle public institutions, and thereby weaken democracy.
In just this past year, many state and local lawmakers have declared an all-out war on local and school libraries. Here are a few examples:
- In Idaho, a bill was introduced that sought jail time for librarians who lend out “harmful to minors” books. Backers of the bill said they objected to books that featured LGBTQ+ characters and storyline.
- In Kentucky, lawmakers passed a law for local politicians to “appoint whomever they want to library boards and block major library spending.”
- In Texas, local activists sought to remove “pornographic filth” from library shelves, which included the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is written as a letter to his son about the experience of growing up Black in America.
- In Florida, books by Toni Morrison, Khaled Hosseini, and Arundhati Roy were successfully removed from the school library, along with books by transgender authors.
This war over access and control isn’t just happening in red states. The Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial in March titled “Don’t let CRT and DEI dominate our libraries.” It encouraged parents to “check the children’s book section in your neighborhood libraries.”
I encourage people to check out the library as a place where diverse ideas and people come together. The Boulder Public Library remains a central hub for civic participation and inclusivity. It’s been a polling station, a COVID-testing and mask-distribution center, a citizenship-class location, a public space for folks to talk about race and culture, and more. Perhaps most important of all is the quiet work the library does on a daily basis: the simple and heroic act of providing free access for anyone from any economic background to information: books, literature, classes, job-search and business information, and tools. This access is an essential democratic activity.
As Boulder Public Library director David Farnan has said: “Public libraries are one of the last great unbroken promises of a democratic society.” Their central purpose is rooted in the First Amendment. Libraries stand at the front lines of this fight. And underfunded public institutions signal a grave threat to free societies.
Boulder’s libraries have been underfunded for decades and now, more than ever, we need to strengthen and fortify this community asset. This is one of the many reasons I support efforts to ask Boulder-area voters this fall to create and fund a library district. The existing model relies on unstable and regressive sales tax, which constantly short-changes the library, particularly when times are tough. That, in turn, limits access to information and programs for those who can least afford it.
Library district funding would come from a dedicated property-tax that would cost the owner of a home with a taxable value of $500,000 less than $10 per month. That is not insignificant, but it’s reasonable and, most importantly, it is what our library system needs.
Having a dedicated, stable source of funding will allow the library system to continue to do what it does best, without struggling to keep the lights on and the doors open. It would allow the library to restart its STEM storytime outreach within the three mobile home parks in the city. It would restore literacy programs that have helped thousands of adults and children reach their reading, writing, and spoken English goals—programs that were effectively shut down due to pandemic-related budget cuts. It would enable the library to partner with local schools to address literacy and pandemic-related learning loss. It will result in the Carnegie Library for Local History to re-open with regular hours and for the Canyon Theater to open its doors again to cultural and civic programs.It will help fully fund construction and programs at the new North Boulder Branch and deliver a long-promised branch in Gunbarrel.
Strong libraries create resilient communities—particularly in times of uncertainty. Putting the Boulder Public Library on a solid funding path through the creation of a library district will not only help our library system grow and thrive, but is another significant step we can take to protect democracy.
Andrew Harris: Library District: The Great Equalizer deserves our support
April 16, 2022, The Daily Camera
I’m a six-year resident of Boulder, now living in Gunbarrel, who has experienced the city both as a graduate student at CU and now as one of the resident PhDs who make us among the best-educated cities in America. Libraries symbolize a community’s commitment to not only learning, but to the support of its citizens regardless of their means.
Libraries are one of the few remaining public spaces in which access is not predicated on ability to pay; one of scant few spaces that are truly intended for access by the general public. They provide critical access to information and services for everyone in the community, providing a rare opportunity for the less fortunate among us to get a leg up, and for the more fortunate among us to avoid buying their own laser cutter.
Boulder’s library system is clearly intended to uphold these views, but has been let down by the funding provided by its community, leaving what should be stellar facilities like the Canyon theater, makerspace, and the Carnegie library closed or on limited hours. In addition, I would welcome a prospective library district to take their Gunbarrel branch and stick it down the street from me, freeing me from the burden of driving into town with all the costs and externalities involved. Local residents, myself included, have recognized our area’s relative lack of amenities.
Now, we are presented with an opportunity to work together to start addressing it — and maybe help some of our neighbors along the way.
Jane Sykes Wilson: How to love your library
April 11, 2022, The Daily Camera
There’s a photograph of an old trifold brochure from the 1980s I came across the other day online. It was a pamphlet with the title: Take Politics Out of the Library, and the image is a little girl, probably now in her mid-40s, trying to open the closed doors of the Boulder Public Library.
Those ballot initiatives from 35 years ago went to voters, and voters approved it. We funded the library, because that’s what Boulder does. Boulder is generous. Boulder loves its libraries. Boulder understands the value of intellectual curiosity, freedom, and exchange. It’s been a long while since voters have had to face those evocative images of closed library doors. But, here we are.
The library’s current funding picture is quite dire, the budget has consistently been cut over the years. A recent example, during the pandemic the library’s budget was cut by 16%, despite only accounting for 3% of the city’s overall budget. The results have a real, direct impact on the community. Programs paused, hours reduced, and maintenance deferred.
Ninety percent of the library’s programs and outreach are funded via grants, many of them from the Boulder Library Foundation. The programs funded through these grants are vital community services:
Student One gives BVSD students access to databases and homework help for free, simply through their student ID.
The BLDG 61 Makerspace located in the Main library has an apprenticeship program that provides low-income students with materials and a stipend to pursue their engineering and technological ideas, with staff support and industry-grade equipment at their fingertips.
In April 2020, the library distributed 400 unlimited data Wi-Fi hotspots to seniors and low-income families, largely in North Boulder, so that they wouldn’t have to sit in the library parking lot to access Wi-Fi from the library’s router to connect with their online classes, do homework, and connect with loved ones. This was also a grant-funded endeavor.
Meanwhile, when extremely cold temps hit Boulder in mid-February, space heaters had to be mounted and duct-taped atop the book shelves in the children’s room, since the infrastructure needed to fully install heating and cooling cannot be budgeted.
BLDG 61’s hours, like those of the branches, have been reduced due to staff layoffs, and the programs mentioned above, of which there are many more, can’t expand, even though we know the demand and the need is there.
The library’s cardholders represent 121% of the city population, meaning that roughly 1/3 of users live outside city limits. It’s time to bring those people in to modernize the funding base for equality and longevity. This happens through a library district, the funding for which voters would approve.
Libraries are, for some in our community, one of the only places in town where they can be in community with others, connect with loved ones, attend a free class, and, yes, also find books. Our library is also a Makerspace, a gallery featuring local artists, one of the only places for free public meeting rooms anywhere in town, a place where adults can get help learning to read and write. A place where immigrants can take citizenship classes, and talk one on one with a volunteer to improve their English skills. The library is social infrastructure that strengthens our community, and that requires investment.
Voters will likely have a chance to vote again in favor of funding their library in 2022 – and this time, they’ll vote for a long-term funding proposal – a library district – to last well beyond the time when today’s children are grown adults. Putting the library on firmer footing through a property tax, levied at 4%, will include taxpayers in unincorporated areas around the city. In return, the library can restore hours to branches, expand into Gunbarrel and Niwot with new branches, and restart its incredible outreach and programming across the community.
The question before us isn’t “do you love our library?” We all do. The question is: “will you vote to give the library sustainable funding?” It shouldn’t be political. It’s a question of investment. That’s how you love a library.
As we get into gear for Boulder library ballot measure 6C to secure a stable funding future for our Boulder libraries, we’ll use this space to cover some of the details on the library district proposal that might be of interest to the public as this campaign moves ahead. Ballot issue 6C to fund our libraries will ensure that Boulder Public Library has long-term funding via a library district. We can't keep our libraries underfunded and closed. It's time to fund our libraries. Learn more at https://www.boulderlibrarychampions.org/. Read ballot issue 6C language here here: https://www.boulderlibrarychampions.org/ballot_language