During the 2020 budget process, our challenge was trying to open the Durango Public Library seven days a week, with consistent weekday and evening hours. Our patrons have been requesting this since the recession in 2009.
The Library Advisory Board has shared reports on the needs of the library for years. City Council included improving underfunded amenities such as the library in their new goals. The sticking point was adding staff to cover those extended hours and how to pay for it. It is not an inexpensive choice to make, and it needs to be sustainable over time. These issues were not easily solved during the budget process, and we will continue to be closed on Sundays.
Rather than see this as a defeat, I see it as an opportunity. The Library Advisory Board and library staff will be working to update our strategic plan in 2020. Community engagement and feedback will be necessary – from both library users and non-users. We want to understand your wants and needs so we can plan for our future. What are we doing well? Where can we improve? What is missing from our services? Be on the lookout for events and surveys in 2020.
While that is taking place, we will work with both the new city manager and finance director (once they are appointed) to examine the city’s budget to determine how to fund the library properly. Our City Council is flexible and has said they are open to additional budget appropriations during the year. Our goal is to come back to council with an updated strategic plan and – if desired by the community – a staffing and hours proposal in June, with the potential to open in August when the school year begins.
With the formation of the new Southwest La Plata Library District and the increased mill levy for the Pine River Library District, it is clear La Plata County residents value library services. But, as both mill levies also demonstrate, nothing is truly free, and tax dollars need to be expended to fund what our community wants. So ... what do you want? It will be time to answer that question in 2020. Balancing budgets and justifying services is a challenge.
I believe in library services and all that we offer our community. I look forward to hearing from all of you and working with the exceptional library staff and outstanding Library Advisory Board to create a proposal to meet your expectations of library service, as well as ensuring any potential increase in funding is sustainable over time in order to earn the support of City Council and our citizenry.
We look forward to our conversations in 2020!
Sandy Irwin is library director at Durango Public Library.