This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 3, 1990

October 3, 1990 - Comparisons to other libraries

Two weeks ago I talked about some of the problems faced by the Douglas County Public Library System. Based on national standards, we have half the space, half the materials, and half the staff we ought to have.

But how do we compare to other Colorado libraries?

Every year, the Jefferson County Public Library produces a chart listing selected statistics of 20 Colorado Public Libraries with operating budgets greater than $400,000. DCPLS (that's us) doesn't stack up very well.

There are a lot of ways to compare libraries, the most obvious being the size of the populations they serve. Other key facts about libraries are how many books they've got, how much per capita support they receive, and how many hours they're open.

Of the twenty libraries, five of them serve about as many people as Douglas County (around 60,000), or fewer. Those libraries are Englewood, Littleton (Bemis), Longmont, Loveland, and Pitkin County.

Englewood has half our population -- but more books (108,000 to our 100,000), and over twice the per capita support ($25.76 per person, versus $10.73 per person in Douglas County). Englewood's library is open 65 hours a week. We're open 52.

Littleton also has about half our population. It too has more books (106,000) and a per capita support that is over twice ours ($25.01). It is open 64 hours per week.

Longmont serves about 10,000 more people than we do, but has over 50,000 more books, and a higher per capita support ($12.74). It is open 66 hours a week.

Loveland serves fewer people (about 37,000), has slightly fewer books (81,000), but almost twice our per capita support ($19.53). It is open 62 hours each week.

Pitkin County serves about a fifth as many people as Douglas County, has half as many books, and a per capita support almost four times ours ($38.27). It offers 66 hours of library service each week.

Our near neighbors -- Arapahoe County and El Paso county -- have libraries that serve 133,977 and 373,062 people respectively. The Arapahoe Library District has 289,526 books, a per capita support of $32.36, and is open 68 hours each week. Pikes Peak Library District in the Springs has 711,547 books, has a per capita support of $22.63, and is open 64 hours a week.

The Douglas County Public Library System currently receives about 1.1 mills of tax money. That has bought us a system that is only half as good as it should be, and considerably worse than most of the libraries around us. Under state law, a county library cannot levy more than 1.5 mills. Library districts -- like Arapahoe County and Pikes Peak -- can levy up to 4 mills, with voter approval.

I think the problem is clear. But as I asked two weeks ago, what's the solution?

Here's the recommendation of the consultants hired by the county for its master facilities plan: "The 1.5 mills legal limit regarding funding will #not#, in the judgment of the library consultants, produce the revenue needed to ensure Douglas County the level and quality of public library service the residents of the county will expect. Additional sources of revenue will be required. .... A library district offers the very #best# opportunity for the level of funding that the Douglas County Library System will need as it advances through the 1990s and into the next century."

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