Libraries serve a vital purpose in our society, but unfortunately, these beloved public spaces are often severely underfunded. Sadly, our library system in Boulder is no exception. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our libraries were operating on a shoestring budget (with funding at 2002 levels).
We can all benefit from the social infrastructure that libraries bring to our community, so I strongly support 6C in our upcoming election. With library funding and the creation of a library district on the ballot in November, it’s my goal to spread awareness about why you should join me in voting YES on 6C. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let’s jump into what 6C will do if approved and debunk some of the myths.
6C Will Provide Stable Funding For the Boulder Library District
From literacy programs for children to accessible WiFi for all, the library provides essential services for everyone in our community. If 6C is passed, this measure will revitalize the library system and create a library district to serve areas in this proposed map.
Why I’m an Enthusiastic YES For 6C
From my perspective, supporting the Boulder Public Library system is an easy choice. In 2018, the Boulder Public Library had over 1 million visits, rivaling Pearl Street Mall. I am eager to see those visitors return. The Canyon Theater has been closed for two years, the Carnegie branch is fully closed, BLDG 61 is only open 2 days per week, and the branches are closed on certain weekdays. This is all due to ongoing budget cuts. Stable funding for the library would revitalize our civic spaces, which is very much needed for our whole community.
I support our library because across the country there are unprecedented efforts to ban books on race and gender themes, highlighted here in recent articles from The Guardian and The Washington Post. It’s clear that the goal behind recent moves is to politicize libraries and limit access to materials that cover gender, sexual identity, and race issues. These are topics we all must engage in as a society. One way to counteract this trend is to invest intentionally in our community assets, like our libraries, so they can combat increasing waves of censorship and authoritarianism. I believe the best way to support our library is by voting yes to provide the library with stable funding for the future.
I support the formation of a Library District for Boulder Public Library, because it means that the library can finally end its decades-long cycle of underfunding. Why does this matter? Because stable funding allows the libraries to serve the needs of their communities, just like schools do. Boulder Library has been doing so much, with too little, for too long. The library is asking us to help it restore and expand its services, such as important literacy programs, children’s programming, and partnerships with schools to reach students who fell behind during the pandemic. We can’t kick this can down the road any longer; we need to fund our libraries this year.
Dispelling the Misinformation
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding what 6C will do and what it will cost. Claims from 6C opponents include that we’re “giving away control” of our library system and that we’re selling buildings and giving up the selection of our Library Trustee. Of course, this is not true! Colorado Library Law dictates how library districts are set up and managed, including the lease of buildings and the perpetual appointment of trustees by City Council and the County Commission.
Probably the most egregious misinformation about the Library District is that it will “double the library’s current budget.” This isn’t true; the library district adds just 12% to the library’s current budget. The cost of running the library in 2023 will be $16.78M. This number has been consistently presented and confirmed by the City Council. Those costs include not only the people and books ($9M), but also the cost of facilities maintenance, IT infrastructure, HR, insurance, risk maintenance, finance, and communications ($4.6M). You can think of it like a household budget, which is not just the cost of groceries and a utility bill. It also includes fixing your leaky roof, your mortgage, your insurance, your transportation costs, and etc.
The 3.5 mill property tax levy proposed to fund the library district is projected to yield about $18.78 million in 2023. This represents a $2 million increase over the current total cost ($16.78M) to fund the library, or an increase of about 12%. Critics who say the library district doubles the budget are using the library’s 2019 operating budget ($9.18M), and comparing it to the 2022 proposed library district total budget of $20M. Comparing two numbers that do not represent either side of the equation accurately is misleading and not productive.
One of my favorite pieces of misinformation out there is that “the library will have enough money to build a branch every two years.” It is hard to believe opponents are being serious with this statement, as it’s like saying “My job pays $50K per year, so I can build a $100K house every two years”. The library district budget does not provide it with money to build new branches every other year. Construction costs would be prohibitive, not to mention that the NoBo branch library, which is breaking ground next year, has taken 35 years to come to fruition.
Creating a library district for Boulder is an essential step in bringing funding to an acceptable level and keeping critical social infrastructure in place. A library is a public space like none other and deserves to be a priority. If you have any questions regarding 6C, you can find everything you need to know at boulderlibrarychampions.org.