For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
April 16, 1997 - Annual Report
This is National Library Week. It's as good a time as any to pass on to Douglas County taxpayers the sort of statistics we gathered for our 1996 annual report to Colorado's State library.
Library patrons. We currently have 83,781 registered borrowers living in Douglas County. That's almost 70% of our 123,000 residents. We have another 5,459 people who live outside the county.
Revenue. Our income for 1996 was $3,105,271 from our local tax base. We got various gifts and donations (primarily the Philip S. Miller bequest) of $124,553. Other income (interest on investments, fines, fees, payments for lost or damaged books, etc.) was $225,146.
Expenditures. As with most libraries, our largest expenditure was staff (about $1.3 million). Our second largest single expense -- just under half a million dollars -- went to the purchase of library materials. All other operating costs -- computers, telephone, postage, utilities, supplies, etc., came to $633,924.
We spent about $112,000 on various capital items (book shelves, furniture, etc.). The remainder was banked for long term capital needs.
Materials. At the end of the year, we had 227,862 books; 10,908 audiotapes, 251 compact discs, and 77 CD-ROMS (look for big jumps in these last two in 1997).
Hours. If you add up all the hours that all our locations are open, we provide 284 hours of library service each week.
Group presentations in 1996 (story hours and library-sponsored programs): 1,824. Program attendance: 30,076.
Books/materials borrowed from other libraries for our patrons: 3,730. Books/materials loaned to other libraries for their patrons: 1,423.
Total circulation (checkouts) for the year: 1,191,881.
Number of challenges to library materials (requests to remove materials from our collection, or to shelve in a less accessible area): 4. The titles were Daddy's Roommate, Men's Journal (a magazine with a suggestive cover one month), Favorite Scary Stories of American Children, and The Boy Who Drew Cats. By contrast, we added about 30,000 items that year.
The annual report also asked about any ballot issues. We reported that a mill levy increase did pass (by 51.5%). Campaign expenditures totaled $2,800 in cash, and $1,500 in in-kind donations.
How does all this compare with other Colorado libraries? Compared to the 18 Colorado public libraries with budgets greater than $675,000, we rank 8th in terms of overall circulation activity (after Denver, Colorado Springs, Jeffco, Aurora, Arapahoe, Boulder, and Fort Collins). On a per capita basis, however, we rank 5th (after Denver, Boulder, Arapahoe, and Longmont).
Other rankings: full-time equivalent staff per 1,000 people served, 11th; materials budget per capita, 6th; and volumes held per capita, 14th (our population is growing faster than our collection, which we're hoping to address by the year 2000).
And that's the year in review.