Telluride Library To Close On Sundays

In case anyone regularly makes use of the library during the festival, it will now be closed on Sundays - FYI.

The library board made it final as of their meeting this last Thursday.

(Personally, I’m not a fan of this decision).

What is the role of a library?

By Heather Sackett
Associate Editor
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 6:44 PM CST

What is the role of a library? That was the question raised at Tuesday’s public meeting at the Wilkinson Public Library.

San Miguel County Commissioners called the meeting with the library’s board of trustees to discuss the decision to close the library on Sundays and to let the public voice opinions. Commissioners said they had received numerous complaints and concerns about the Sunday closure and support for keeping it open. County commissioners appoint the library board members. The meeting in the Program Room drew about 40 people.

But the discussion soon turned from the Sunday closure to philosophical questions of the traditional definition of a library, how that has evolved and what services a library should provide to the community.

The board faced criticism from some who thought the library has expanded its programs and offerings to an unsustainable level and should focus on the three words engraved above its door: information, knowledge, wisdom.

“Can we orient the library to its core mission?” Marc Froehlich asked. “There are too many programs. There are hours here that are intolerable. The young adult section is a riot.”

Harold Wondsel agreed.

“The library has created this problem by increasing the programs,” he said. “We are a small town. We have turned this thing into the monster that it is.”

About 15 people, most of them Sunday library users, spoke at the public meeting. Although a few sympathized with the library’s financial woes, most said they were in favor of keeping the doors open on Sunday. Others used the meeting as a platform to criticize the library’s management and high salaries. Some suggested charging a small fee for programs that are currently free. Others complained the library has morphed into a noisy arcade and childcare center.

Carlos Cagin, son of board vice president Seth Cagin, pointed out that one of the key groups that use the library was conspicuously absent from the meeting — young people. People acquire knowledge and use the library in many different ways, and none are more valid than others, he said.

“I think it’s a bit arrogant to try to define that for other people,” he said.

According to board members, the library is facing a projected $305,961 deficit in its 2014 budget, which includes the savings from the 2013 Sunday closure. Board members estimate they will save roughly $100,000 in 2013 from a reduction in two staff positions, plus the Sunday closure.

The library is a special taxing district that has a 2.8 mill levy on property values and a $2.4 million budget this year. Ninety-four percent of the library’s revenue comes from property taxes, board president Judy Thompson said Tuesday. As property values decline, so does the library budget. The board expects a 15 percent decline in 2014.

Seth Cagin said the decision to close on Sundays was an easy one compared to the decisions the board will have to make in the near future.

“The cut that brought this crowd out still leaves a $300,000 problem,” Cagin said. “There are going to be other cuts. It’s just a reality.”

To manage the impeding shortfall, the library will also use reserves and fundraising in addition to budget cuts. Although the library is now closed on Sundays, it will still be open for 61 hours a week by opening one hour earlier — at 9 a.m. — Monday through Friday.

A common complaint, heard from commissioners and others, was the lack of public input or notification about the Sunday closure. The board was not clear whether they are reconsidering the decision, but figuring out how to move forward is on the agenda for the regular meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Commissioner Art Goodtimes said that although he supports the library board in their decision, some more outreach to the community is needed. Thompson vowed that the board would do a better job getting information to library patrons.

“We will find a way to effectively communicate to you,” she said.