The Friends of the Durango Public Library, a nonprofit, will help keep library branch locations at Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside elementary schools open in 2018.
In May, La Plata County announced it would no longer fund the libraries starting in 2018, a change that will save about $115,000, said County Finance Director Diane Sorensen.
The Friends of the Durango Public Library plans to contribute $45,000 for programs at all three libraries, such as summer reading and a literary festival. The contribution will allow the library district to continue to pay for materials for the branches, Library Director Sandy Irwin said.
“We are so lucky that we have the Friends of the Library. ... We would have to make cuts in other areas in order to balance our budget,” she said.
Continuing to pay for materials with district funds helps preserve an annual state grant for books and other materials, which was more than $14,000 this year, she said.
However, relying on the Friends of the Library is likely not a sustainable solution to losing county funding, she said.
Durango School District 9-R received a one-year grant to help pay the salaries of the staff members at the branch libraries, Irwin said. The school district is committed to paying $99,000, which will allow staff members to work longer hours and provide more support to schools.
It’s not clear if the school district can maintain funding for library staff members after 2018, but she hopes the funding can be maintained into the future.
The branch libraries provide broadband internet access for residents in areas of the county where it’s not as widely available, she said.
The libraries serve as meeting space for communities and are far more convenient for some people than driving into Durango.
This year, the Fort Lewis Mesa branch estimates that it will circulate 7,700 materials, and the Sunnyside branch expects to circulate 7,500 materials. Materials include books, films and other items available for checkout.
By comparison, the main branch expects to circulate 372,000 materials.