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.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

October 18, 2007 - Shall Library Funding be Increased?

Imagine that you run a business, and that you're doing very well. By every measure that matters, the demand for your services is on the rise. In fact, over the past five years, it's up by124 percent.

Not only that, your market share is growing. Eighty percent of the households in your target area are solid customers.

But you've got a problem. In order to keep up with that growing market, you need to invest in some capital improvements. You need more service outlets, particularly in the fastest growing areas of the county. That takes more cash than you've got.

What do you do?

Well, most businesses would go to their bank for a loan. And the loan officer would ask some questions:
• what's your business plan?
• what have you done to contain your costs, and position yourself for growth?
• what's your credit rating? How have you managed your finances?

Depending on those answers, and depending on the character of the business owner, the loan officer will grant the loan, or not.

That's how it works in the private sector. In the public sector, it's a little different. In the public sector, the people are the bank.

In August of this year, the Library Board of Trustees voted to place a question on the ballot: shall library funding be increased, through a property tax measure, by 1.25 mills annually?

For every $100,000 of market value, homeowners will pay about 83 cents a month. It's a bargain.

The money would be used to build and operate several libraries: first, a new Castle Pines North storefront library of about 6,500 sf (where our bookmobile has been), then a 45,000 sf library in Parker (replacing the 20,000 sf building there), and several years from now, a 35,000 sf building in Lone Tree (replacing the 10,000 sf building). In addition, some previously unfinished space in Highlands Ranch (both interior and exterior) will be completed, thereby adding two large new spaces to the building. Together, that should handle things for about a decade.

But that's not all. We'll also beef up our new materials at all of our libraries. We'll upgrade our Internet and public computer access.

Over the past two years, the library has reinvented itself, tightening its belt, finding new ways to display materials, and make our checkout/checkin processes more efficient and cost-effective. Our Foundation has solicited private donations. We have established productive partnerships with other entities, public and private. (The land for the Parker and Lone Tree libraries will be donated.)

As a result, the library managed to sustain 23% growth in business over last year. But our staffing has been almost flat.

The last time the library approached the voters was 11 years ago. Since then, the library has managed to keep up with the phenomenal growth of the county without any debt whatsoever.

So that's the business plan, that's what we've done to hold the line on costs, and that's our financial history.

And that's as far as a public entity can take it. Now ... it's up to the bank.

That would be you.

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