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.
August 28, 2008 - it's official
On August 21, 2008, the Library Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to place a mill levy increase question on the November ballot. That ballot will ask for voter approval for 1 (one) mill. 0.4 mills will be retired when the building projects are paid for -- which is estimated to take about 20 years. One mill is $7.96 per year on each $100,000 of home value.
What are the projects? A neighborhood library in Castle Pines (in leased space), a new Parker Library (on donated land), and a new Lone Tree Library (also on donated land). They would open in 2009, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch would also see some building improvements as funds are available, but not later than 2012.
The proposal is different from last year's in three ways.
* It's cheaper. Our public feedback revealed a lot of concern about the economy. We heard you. Despite rising construction costs, we lowered the anticipated expense by scaling back the projects, and phasing in their construction. The library has always taken an aggressively conservative approach to public expenditures. We still do.
* Part of the increase sunsets. When the construction is paid off, 40% of the new mill goes away. The rest will be used to operate the expanded facilities.
* It's urgent. Last year, our planning was far enough out that no big changes were immediately necessary if we failed to address district demand. That's changed. For one thing, the promise of donated land in Lone Tree -- a significant savings -- will be withdrawn if the voters turn down our proposal again.
For another, the inequities of service across the county are becoming more pronounced.
In the 12 years since our last tax increase, the county has not grown evenly. Today, Parker has a library half the size of the library in Castle Rock, but serves a population almost twice as large. Castle Pines has no library at all. Lone Tree has quite a beautiful building, but soon will serve an area far beyond its capacity.
Trustees represent the entire county. If the voters want us to live within our existing revenues, then we'll have to redistribute the resources more fairly, diminishing some services across the county to invest in necessary infrastructure. That's painful and disruptive. It is also unnecessary -- I hope.
The increased cost for most households would be about the cost of one hardback book per year. Is it really necessary to break the library system when just one book per family would head off the problem? (Especially when more books is precisely what we're after.)
A copy of the Board resolution, and the complex ballot language (don't blame us -- there's not a lot of leeway in how we have to ask for things) can be found at DouglasCountyLibraries.org.
Many thanks to all of you who took the time to give encouragement, criticism, and thoughtful input to the Board's decision. The Trustees are an extraordinarily diligent group of people, and invested many hours of their volunteer time to address community needs. They care.
Ultimately, the library isn't mine. It isn't the staff's. It isn't even the Board's.
It's yours. You have a choice about its future, and its significance to your life.
LaRue's Views are his own.