I’m a big Rockies fan, and I love baseball analogies. This summer we will open our final two new libraries in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and I can see home plate on the horizon. And while we are excited to see this phase of the Library District’s development come to fruition, we are also mindful of the realities of the economy and our own finances. The past two years have been trying ones for us as we have endured a state sales tax refund that has claimed nearly $1.3 million in sales tax revenues from the Library District. How have we survived this massive shortfall? Through a combination of reductions in overhead, staffing and salaries, strong reserves, some assistance from Garfield County, and a number of timely grants that have helped us stay on track and maintain our core services in all locations. Most organizations facing a tremendous burden of this scale might have hunkered down, but we’ve continued to grow. Here’s how.
For starters, we believe technology training is one of the best ways we can help our communities learn about and utilize all of the great tools that are out there for accessing information. We’ve taught numerous computer classes as well as provided assistance with e-readers (such as Kindles, Nooks and others), and we are currently offering classes for iPads and our new e-magazine service, Zinio. We received a grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District (FMLD) that is allowing us to install a “maker space” at the Rifle Branch Library that will feature two Mac Pros with access to the full Adobe Creative Suite so that our users can access software for creating videos, recording music, editing photos, making websites and more. This grant also includes funds for us to invest in a small 3D printer so we can start giving kids and adults the opportunity to create in this new and exciting format.
This year also brought out a need in Western Garfield County for the libraries to offer fifth day programming for children who were out of school due to budget shortfalls. We offered STEAM (science, technology, English, art and math) programming at three locations from October through May to children in grades Kindergarten to fourth grade as a way of giving those kids something meaningful to do on their days off. The program was made possible through the FMLD grant, as well as a Library Services and Technology Assistance grant through the Colorado State Library. In addition, funding from the Aspen Community Foundation is helping to make this year’s summer reading program one to remember. Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer every child a book of their choice as part of the summer reading incentive program.
Finally, we are continuing to expand our solar capacity with help from a FMLD grant and an Xcel Renewable Energy Trust grant, as well as Colorado Mountain College’s Integrated Energy Program. This summer, we will be working together to install 20 kWh of photovoltaic panels on the Silt Branch Library. The electrical offset is a big help in keeping the Library District’s operational costs down while doing something meaningful for the environment.
We are both in the home stretch on our construction projects and crossing into new frontiers with our existing services, programs and collections. Each year brings challenges but we are confident that we will continue to keep libraries in Garfield County vibrant, alive, and THE place to be.
Amelia Shelley is executive director of the Garfield County Public Library District.