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Residents push for Boulder-area library district; Longmont may consider district option

Longmont Library consultant presents her findings in April
Longmont Public Library
Consultant raises library district option File photo

 

Books are a top commodity in Kelly Donovan’s Gunbarrel home and a new library district in unincorporated Boulder County would feed her family’s deep need for the written word.

“My daughter consumes books so fast there is never enough books in the house,” Donovan said this week during a virtual town hall with the Boulder County Commissioners.

Donovan and other speakers urged the commissioners to create a Boulder-based library district that would yield branches in Niwot and Gunbarrel. The branches would allow them to check out books and materials without having to go to the main library in Boulder.

Creating more libraries is also a cornerstone of democracy, said Gunbarrel resident Margaret Clinton. “A library helps connect and inform the community and helps them engage in democracy,” Clinton said. “I’d be happy to contribute a couple of hundred dollars a year for this purpose.”

The Boulder City Council and the county commissioners will hold a joint session on April 5 to decide whether to create a library district by resolution, Senior Assistant County Attorney Kate Burke said this week. If the resolution passes, voters in the proposed library district would vote in November for a property tax hike to fund the district 

Shifting the Boulder Public Library into a district has been discussed for nearly three decades, according to the Boulder Library’s website. For the past six years, Boulder’s Library Commission, City Council and staff have looked at several approaches to better fund the library.

A 2018 Master Plan said a library district “was the most “fair and equitable” way of sustaining and growing the public library, the website states.

The mill levy proposed for the library district is 3.8 mills. That would add $272 annually to the property taxes of someone who owns a $1 million home, Burke said. The new tax would yield $19.5 million in annual revenue for the district.

The district’s boundaries will be set at the April 5 meeting. The district’s new services will include the restoration of library hours to pre-pandemic levels and the openings of a Gunbarrel and Niwot branch, according to the website.

A library district for Longmont is an avenue being offered in a feasibility study that will be presented to the Longmont City Council in April, Library Director Nancy Kerr said via email.

Library consultant Annie Sieger’s report “will contain information about the status of the Longmont Public Library as compared to peer libraries, its needs today and going forward, and different funding models available,” Kerr said. “A library district is one model being studied.”

A recently formed group called the Longmont Library District Project., states the current funding for the Longmont Library is inadequate and has been well below state and national averages for some time. 

Smaller Colorado cities, like Durango, have larger budgets for their libraries because they use library districts to buy books and other materials. 

“Longmont’s current library building was designed for a city with a population of approximately 65,000-68,000 people,” the group states. “Longmont will have over 100,000 residents in 2022 with a growth likelihood of 125,000 residents within the next decade. That will leave us with a substantially underfunded library…”

 

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