A Message from the Director

Director Message

Douglas County Libraries

Director’s 2013 Budget Message

Mission: Douglas County Libraries is a passionate advocate for literacy and lifelong learning.

Vision: Through engagement, education and entertainment, Douglas County Libraries transforms lives and builds community.

Douglas County Libraries is a vibrant institution. Ranked by volume, our patrons use us for the following:

  • Access to the intellectual content of our culture. “Circulation” – checking things out – remains our most significant use. We’re on track to check out over 8 million items. On a per capita basis, we are one of the busiest libraries in the nation.
  • Visits. Our door count registers over 2 million a year. There are another 2 million visits to our website and catalog.
  • Reference. Even in the age of Google, many of our patrons ask for personal assistance from library staff to navigate a complex information landscape. In our last full year of statistics, our staff responded to almost 300,000 direct questions.
  • Databases. The library uses its collection budget to gain access to various commercial information sources, ranging from journal articles to charts, reports and studies. This is “self-serve reference,” and accounts for another 300,000 transactions a year.
  • Program attendance. The library is a social hub. People attend programs for children, lifelong learning, to meet authors, and more. Roughly 225,000 people a year make use of this service.
  • Access to technology. We have roughly as much use of our public PCs (and wireless network) as we have program attendance. While as many as 97% of Douglas County households has Internet access, demand for this public service remains strong. Another part of this access is “tech support” – as reflected in our strong coaching in the use of various devices and software.

All of these uses will remain important to our community for the foreseeable future. But there are also some changes in our environment.

  • The rise of the eBook. As of 2012, we have seen three significant shifts. First, about 50% of mainstream commercial book sales in the United States are now digital. At the same time, the Big 5 publishers who account for 51% of our print purchases (HarperCollins, Random House/Penguin, Macmillan, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster) are greatly restricting library access to their eBook formats, either by not selling them to us at any price (Macmillan, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster) or by greatly increasing the price. To highlight this problem, Douglas County Libraries has begun producing and widely distributing a monthly report showing the availability and price of popular titles in both print and electronic formats.

    But the Big 5 aren’t the only game in town. The second trend is the rise of small and independent publishing. Freed of the constraints and costs of printing and shipping, this “stream” of publishing content now annually produces almost as many titles as the more commercial content. And the independents have proven far more willing to provide favorable terms to libraries.

    Finally, self-published titles have also reached a rough equivalency with the commercial stream (and have now shown up regularly on the New York Times Bestseller list).

    In years past, DCL has purchased in the vicinity of 150,000 titles a year. But there are about 300,000 titles apiece in the commercial, independent, and self-publishing streams. That’s both a business problem (how do we continue to sample this output for our patrons?) and an opportunity (new streams of content means the potential for new deals).

    In 2012 we rolled out our own digital content management system, a system now known nationally and internationally as “the DCL Model.” At this writing, we have established a “Digital Branch” collection of about 35,000 titles, from all three of the sources mentioned (commercial, independent, self). We’re working with over 800 imprints, and securing new and deep discounts. Moreover, the DCL Model has been adopted by a number of libraries from coast to coast, and even overseas.

  • Declining library use. Many public libraries along the Front Range are seeing a drop in circulation (and many other areas). One reason is that as we stretch our budgets to accommodate the more expensive popular digital titles, we buy fewer print titles, for which there is still significant demand. Fewer items equals less use. Too, library use tends to increase with a down economy. Now that we seem to be pulling out of a recession, people may be spending more time at work, or buying what they used to borrow. While all Douglas County libraries are busy, and well-used, a stabilizing population (slower growth than in years past), and other factors do need to be watched.

  • Buildings that are too small for their service areas. In 2007 and 2008, the voters of Douglas County defeated measures to build or expand library facilities in Parker, Lone Tree, and Castle Pines. Yet the problems remain. In all of these libraries, people are sometimes turned away by the lack of available parking, meeting rooms are not available, staff are crowded into cramped offices, we pay rental fees for author and other events, and there is no room for the expansion of collections.

So key to our 2013 budget are the following:

  • Maintenance of those services still in high demand by our patrons. Key among these is the continued aggressive acquisition of library materials.
  • Further development of our Digital Branch. Now that our infrastructure is solid, we need to further refine the processes of publisher relations, digital materials acquisition, and the beginning of greater community involvement in the assessment of new streams of content. To support the increasing role of information technology in library operations, we will also be adding two new IT positions.
  • The beginning of an exploration of library building options. This consists of some investments in existing branches to upgrade furnishings, and better use of current space. But we’ll also be reaching out to engage the community in assessing some demonstration library concepts. Which concepts appeal to our changing demographics, and help define an exciting 21st century facility? Finally, we’ll be bringing a donor relations specialist on board – building on our rebranding work of 2012, and laying the groundwork for a capital campaign in 2014.

Finally, I wanted to record our core values, a significant outcome of our 2012 rebranding effort:

  • Deliver books and more: Maintain a current, high-quality collection that meets our public’s needs.
  • Serve all: Ensure accessibility and services for all members of our diverse community.
  • Build literacy: Be champions for literacy and our role in it.
  • Explore and discover: Provide people, experiences, programs and spaces that inspire exploration and discovery.
  • Be friendly and helpful: Maintain a high level of friendly, supportive services and interactions that are helpful and impart knowledge.
  • Blaze a trail: Create future relevance by being innovative and visionary, while respecting our past.
  • Create connections: Communicate to create engagement, collaboration, meaningful connections, community, growth and trust.
  • Make it work: Ensure functioning and well-maintained equipment, technology and facilities, for organizational success.

Through 2012, Douglas County has continued its tradition of high service standards, the passionate promotion of literacy, and a deep, broad community engagement. In 2013, we will continue to blaze a trail into an exciting new world.

James LaRue
Library Director
December 8, 2012