Library board plans for the future
Garfield County libraries are facing an old dilemma: More people are expecting more out of their libraries. The Garfield County Library Board is looking for creative ways to make that happen. Last spring, the board crafted a five-year strategic plan that looks to build new libraries and provide more services for patrons.The cornerstone of the plan is forming partnerships with local community governments to find new ways of financing its capital improvement plan.Currently, a one-quarter-cent countywide sales tax funds the library system – with branches in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle, Silt and Parachute. That tax brought in $1.5 million in 2003. County library director Jaci Spuhler projects that amount to increase by 15 percent in 2004, due in large part to the Wal-Mart Supercenter opening in Rifle in the fall of 2003.Funding covers operating and maintenance costs, Spuhler said, and doesn’t leave room for badly needed improvements.”We’re going to the towns to ask, do they want to improve their libraries?” she said, and more importantly, help the library board find creative ways to fund those improvements.Rifle and Glenwood Springs’ libraries are identified in the plan as needing new, larger buildings in the near future.One way to raise money in addition to the sales tax would be to form a library district that could collect property taxes. One such initiative was struck down by Garfield County voters in 1999.Newly revised library legislation would allow local governments to partner with library boards to form regional library authorities that would collect taxes within that community or larger area. Forming a localized taxing district for a particular library could have more appeal to voters.Spuhler and the library board are hoping to sell the idea to municipal governments in the county. On Tuesday, Spuhler and board member Bill Lamont pitched the idea to the Carbondale Town Board. Also key to running bigger and better libraries is more staff paid a competitive wage.At this point, the libraries are operating at the same staffing levels as last year, Spuhler said, with double-digit growth in demands for service. New Castle and Glenwood Springs libraries have each seen a 10 percent growth in circulation in past year, and Rifle posted an 11 percent increase, Spuhler said.For now, Spuhler struggles with meeting pent-up demand for longer hours at the libraries. Beginning in January, the Rifle library will be open on Mondays, giving patrons at least one place to go for books that day. County libraries have been closed on Mondays for some years. A couple of libraries also have shifted their evening hours to better accommodate patrons.”It’s sort of like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, moving hours around,” Spuhler quipped.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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