by Anthonette Klinkerman
Two hundred and ten people decided the outcome last year. The issue of the library initiative not passing in the last election lost by 210 votes.
It was not the populus of Castle Pines North (CPN), but the surrounding parts of Douglas County that determined they already had new libraries and did not need more. These voters have not recently checked the wait lists that can grow up to 134 people long for popular releases, nor have they dropped in on a storytime packed wall-to-wall with children.
Douglas County Libraries are straining at the seams in order to contain a population that cannot get enough literature and media.
In a July meeting, Jamie LaRue, library director, came to the concerned residents of CPN in order to discuss getting the library initiative back on the ballot again in November. Of the registered voters, 72 percent of CPN residents voted for the library growth plan, whereas only 49 percent of Castle Rock voters approved the initative in the last vote.
Douglas County Libraries have avoided asking for a tax increase for twelve years, but three years ago they reached the end of their reserve funds. In the meantime, demand for library services has continued to grow.
The 20,000 square foot building in Parker serves more than 100,000 people currently, and the 10,000 square foot building in Lone Tree serves more than 30,000 people. The library Bookmobile in Castle Pines North borrows from other libraries frequently to meet the increasing needs of CPN residents, which in turn creates longer waitlists elsewhere.
LaRue expressed his dismay that library patrons have often turned away in recent months as they cannot find parking spaces in Parker, or find the children’s storytimes at the Philip S. Miller branch in Castle Rock or Lone Tree overcrowded. He sees the library expansion projects, which include a storefront branch in CPN, as an answer to meeting swelling demand in Douglas County. More than 40 percent of library business in the county is in the children’s literature segment.
For voters, the decision comes to a mill levy package. The need is for 1.3 mills, .5 of which will go to fund new buildings, to pass on the November ballot.
How much will it cost taxpayers? It breaks down to $1 a month for new buildings per taxpayer, and $2 a month for operations. As LaRue pointed out, for an extra $30 a year, three new buildings go up, and “tens of thousands” of new books and media become available to the entire library system. Other mill levy proposals on the ballot include the proposed new Justice Center in Parker which requires five mills, and the Douglas County School District’s request for four mills.
Those voters in the district already enjoying new buildings may have forgotten that “taxpayers in the entire district paid for those buildings,” he speculates. LaRue is hopeful they will return the favor and pass the initiative that will allow for expansion that could only benefit all library users, from the casual to the voracious. He is projecting a large voter turnout of 90 percent as the library issue will accompany the presidential elections this year.
“...for an extra $30 a year, three new buildings go up, and ‘tens of thousands’ of new books and media become available to the entire library system.”
“Now is the time to get the word out,” LaRue told CPN residents. Nearly all at the meeting voiced their willingness to go door-to-door and make phone calls to achieve the ultimate goal of gaining a library on the CC-20 land parcel, located in the heart of CPN. The library system itself will continue to promote its cause via mailings and phone campaigns targeting the swing demographic in the months leading up to the vote.
Should the initiative not pass, the library must wait another five years before asking again.
Nationwide, libraries can claim only two percent growth. Here in Douglas County, the libraries have seen double digit growth for ten consecutive years. LaRue, in answering a question about investing, stated, “For every voter dollar, $5.02 in services is provided by the library. I don’t know where else you can get that kind of return on your investment.”
CPN resident Warren Lynge has stepped up to chair the efforts to educate voters on this issue in CPN. He can be reached at 303-381-7550 for more information on volunteer opportunities.