Denver Public Library Prepares for a Potential $2.5 Million Budget Cut

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Library budget cuts could mean closing 7-12 branches in 2012.

The Denver Public Library Commission met yesterday, April 20, 2011 to discuss potential cuts to the Library’s budget, as well as options for sustainable funding. They released this White Paper which explains more about the situation and their recommendations.

In a nutshell, DPL has been instructed by the city to prepare a 2012 budget proposal with a target reduction of $2.5 million. The three options for meeting this target are:

  1. The Library could further reduce hours of operation (however, many branches are only open 32 hours per week as it is).
  2. Reduce hours and cut the materials budget.
  3. Close some branches and use the savings to maintain adequate service at the remaining branches and Central.

The Library Commission recommends pursuing branch closures to maintain minimum service standards, and with a $2.5 million reduction in the budget, this would mean 7-12 branches would close indefinitely.

The White Paper also details the minimum Library service standards that the Commission has set forth, and further explores DPL’s need for sustainable funding, and what those options may look like.

We need EVERYONE in our community who is upset by the idea of closures to contact their elected officials and share how important the Library is to them, their families, their neighbors and our City.

Budget Documentation

White Paper

Press Release


Wouldn't it be completely ridiculous and a huge waste of money to close one of the many libraries that have recently been refurbished. That sounds like DPL's plan. Why did we tax payers pay for all the remodeling and now face this mess.

I'm sure those renovated branches are "safe".

According to the site for the Better Denver Bond Program (at ) taxpayer money has already been allocated, or spent, for payment for refurbishment and upgrades at all 22 of the existing branch libraries plus Central branch. The site puts the tab for refurbishment at $14,413,000.

With those refurbishments already scheduled and paid for, and the cost covered by the bond money, and NOT coming out of the Library's $30.9M annual budget, why is the City Librarian planning to close 7 to 12 branch libraries?

The Library also plans to spend another, larger portion of that voter-approved bond money to build three new branch libraries. The first of the three new branches, at Green Valley Ranch, opened in March and cost, perhaps, $11.4M.

The cost for the other two new branch libraries is not available, but the groundbreaking ceremony for the new branch at Stapleton is on May 19 at 2pm. Everyone's invited, which is only polite as we have already paid for it.

There are 23 branch libraries and you say you must close between 7 to 12 of them to meet the budget for the library.

So you plan to cover an 8% cut to the Library's 2012 budget by closing as many as 50% of the branch libraries?

Why is DPL building three new branch libraries and threatening to close 7 to 12 existing branch libraries?

What happens to the books and other materials in those libraries after they have been shut down? What will be done with the buildings that house those libraries?

What will the acquisition budget look like if you no longer have to supply half of the branch libraries? What will your staffing costs be after you layoff all of the employees of those 7 to 12 branches?

If you look at it another way, if it only takes 8% of the budget to keep those branches open--thats half of all the branch libraries--then it seems like those branch libraries are an absolute bargain.

I care about the library and how it is managed. I would like to understand how you came to this conclusion to close 7 to 12 branch libraries.

Is the library's annual budget available online? If not, why not? The City of Denver makes the budget available online as a PDF. Anyone who wants to follow the money can see line item city budgets going back 7 years. Maybe you could post the line item budgets for the library on the Budget page. It looks like it hasn't been updated since some time in 2009.


While the number of branches that would need to close has not been determined, we would also be restoring hours at the remaining branches to at least 40 hours per week creating "full time" Libraries.

We would be able to move some of the most requested items from closed buildings to other locations, based on the space we have available, to maximize customers access to our collections. We are not considering the sale of any branch locations to help us meet the current 2012 budget reduction targets. DPL would need to maintain basic maintenance, safety and exterior upkeep of any closed buildings. If we are not able to address the long-term funding gap faced by the Library, we may in the future need to consider permanent closures and sale or repurposing of the buildings.

The Acquisitions budget reduction is potentially $500,000-$1,000,000 depending on the number of branches and other factors.

To meet the current $2.5 million budget target, the Library can make further cuts to the materials budget, further reduce hours at all locations, or look to closing some branch libraries. Over the past two years, DPL has made significant cuts to our materials budget and has reduced hours to their current levels of most locations only being opened 32 hours (4 days) per week. The Library Commission has put forth minimum service hours of at least 40 hours per week at branch libraries and 56 hours/week at Central allow library staff, collections, technology, programs and services to be available to Denver residents in the most efficient, effective and consistent manner. Further hours reductions will result in a majority of locations being open only three days per week. This means that customers can not access the information, programs, staff expertise and materials the Library offers most of the time. Instead, a minimum of 40 hours per week (five days) allows customers to find what they need, when they need, but will force the library to eliminate some locations to shift resources to best meet customer needs across the City.

The Denver Public Library's budget is included in the City of Denver's budget. We're working on getting the updated budget information on our website.

The posted whitepaper addresses most all of your questions, check it out.

I read the posted Library Commission whitepaper before I posted my questions because I hoped the whitepaper would explain why the City Librarian feels that closing as many as 12 (of 23) branch libraries is the best fiscally responsible choice to preserve service for library patrons. The assertions made by the Library Commission in their April 2011 whitepaper raise more questions than are answered.

Why not post the annual line item budgets for the library, let everyone have a look at where the money goes, and then persuade us that closing half of the existing branches is the best way to make up a proposed 8% cut to the $30.9M the library will receive from Denver's General Fund in 2012.

It seems like a long time ago, though it has been only four years, since the election in 2007 (before the economic downturn, remember?) when generous Denver voters approved the $550M Better Denver Bond Program.

The Denver Public Library received a share of that money to augment the $30M it continues to receive each year from the City's General Fund. The Better Denver money was enough to build three NEW branch libraries--at Stapleton, in West Denver, and the recently opened Green Valley Ranch branch library. The Library also spent some of that money on a new, different, self-checkout system using RFID technology, to replace the slightly-less-new self-checkout system that read barcodes. In addition, the Bond Program funding covered the cost of infrastructure repair and refurbishment of the Central Library and all 22 branch libraries.

And now City Librarian Shirley Amore wants to close "between 7 and 12 " branch libraries--those recently refurbished branch libraries!--to cover a proposed 8% cut to the Library's $30.9M budget for 2012.

She's just thinking about service, she says.

Library patrons endured the implementation of a new library catalog which disrupted service from December 2010 and led to a closure of the library for a week in January/February of this year.

Polaris, DPL's new integrated library catalog, doesn't integrate with the Prospector unified catalog, so Denver Public Library patrons are now denied direct access to the 30 million books, journals, CDs, DVDs and other materials previously available from library collections across the state.

Denver's Office of Budget and Management projects a budget deficit of $100M and asks the Library to absorb their fair share of budget cuts that will affect every entity that relies on the General Fund. Denver is a Community, true enough, and we share revenue and cuts as they happen.

The Library Commission and the City Librarian have something else in mind. What they would quite like, they say, in their Library Commission White Paper, would be an additional revenue stream from cash strapped Denver taxpayers. "Make us a Special Library District with the power to tax" or, perhaps, "another teensy mill levy that would raise your property tax just ever so slightly." (You know, the property tax on your property that continues to decline in value in this New Normal economy.)

Do it, they say, call your elected officials today, or you'll force our hand, and we will close between seven and twelve branch libraries to preserve service.

"Library patrons endured the implementation of a new library catalog"
Yes, that is right, the library got a new system to prepare itself for the future and provide better service to library patrons. The old system was riddled with issues and was no longer even supported by the vendor. This was a wise decision both fiscally and practically. To make up for the week closure you had to "endure", the library changed the way they are implementing the city mandated furlough days this year, so that the library would not have to be closed any more than it would have been anyway.

"Polaris, DPL's new integrated library catalog, doesn't integrate with the Prospector unified catalog"

You will be happy to hear that this is a temporary situation.

Yes, it is true the library would like to be a district with dedicated funding. Why would you consider that some kind of weird secret conspiracy? Of course the city librarian wants the libraries to have the funding they need to operate! To avoid situations like this!

You want all the libraries to stay open, yet you aren't willing to fund them with a tax or mil levy(which would be a few dollars a month). You say the library needs to absorb its fair share of budget cuts--the library budget has been cut every year for some time now, it is operating with less staff and less money than ever before. You can't have it both ways, either you are wiling to fund the library and have a robust system or you are not and libraries will close/services will decline.

It takes money to run libraries, no matter how fiscally responsible you are. If you really care about your library system, you have to be willing to pay for it.

Oh and by the way-the proposed mil levy to fund a district(if the library even goes that direction) would be less than $5 dollars a month for a taxpayer owning a property worth $200,000.

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