Message from the City Librarian: Library’s Customer Base is Far from Eroding

In a recent Denver Post article by Vincent Carroll, he states, “… does it really make sense to relieve the city's budget woes by creating a permanent funding stream for the one service whose customer base is facing potentially drastic erosion? Before any tax reaches the ballot, let someone make that case.

As you can imagine, I have a very strong opinion about this. Libraries have been adapting to the world around them for the past century, and the surge of the digital age is no different. Libraries provide essential services to the public such as computer access and training, job-search assistance, literacy programs, and access to thousands of print and digital materials. They serve as the cornerstone of their community and are a key link in developing a knowledgeable, productive workforce and fostering economic development.

The increase in the use of eBooks does not mean that the library’s customer base is eroding, as Carroll’s article suggests. It means that libraries must offer this popular format in addition to the physical books which many are still using, and adapt to the changing needs of the public as they have for decades.

In 2010, the Denver Public Library welcomed over 4 million visitors, circulated 9 million items, and had 40 million online transactions -- hardly a sign of becoming obsolete. In fact, libraries across the country are seeing an increase in usage, not a decrease, especially in times of recession. According to a study by the American Library Association, over two thirds of Americans have a library card and visit a library 1.4 billion times a year. Every day, 300,000 Americans seek job-related help at a public library. It’s quite evident that libraries are not just places to hold books.

There has been an age-old debate over what the library of the future looks like. As long as there is a need for free and equal access to information – libraries will be around and will continue to adapt to the needs of the public.

In 1889, John Cotton Dana, DPL’s first city librarian, had the vision of making the Library “a center of public happiness.” He was a pioneer – bringing resources and services to the people. His main objective was to make the library relevant to the daily lives of the citizens, an objective that is still at the core of the Library’s mission.

But to prepare for the future needs of our community, the Denver Public Library must address a fundamental challenge in how it is funded. The Library, funded by the City of Denver’s General Fund has undergone major budget cuts for the past several years. This has led to drastic reductions in service hours, staff levels and purchase of new materials. With the impending cuts to the 2012 budget, our world-class library is in serious jeopardy.

The Denver Public Library is at a crossroads. We cannot continue to be at the mercy of the unpredictable ups and downs of the City’s budget. We need a long-term sustainable funding solution. Forming a library district has been viewed by communities across the state as the best form of governance for delivering consistently high-quality library service. A modest mill levy increase (about $56 per year on a $200,000 home) would make a tremendous difference in how we can provide service. All library locations would be open at least 40 hours per week, instead of the current 32. We would be able to provide the materials, technology and programs that our customers want and need. Most importantly, we’d be able to plan for our future without the constant threat of unknown budget cuts from year to year.

For more information about DPL’s budget situation and library districts visit:

Written by Shirley Amore on June 13, 2011


Anonymous on July 16, 2011


Vincent Carroll's comments were not very fact based or intelligent, especially from someone who has made his living with the written word. Mike Rosen said on his radio show that libraries will not be needed in the not too distant future and they will be museums. These types of comments are ridiculous from people who think our tax dollars shouldn’t be used for anything except maybe wars. The internet certainly has its place, I work on the internet. Ebooks have their place, but neither will ever replace having an actual book, fiction or non-fiction. It is a shame that the Denver Public Library system was once #1 or #2 in the country and is now way down the list. It needs to become the top library in the country again. And selling many of your books is not the way to do it DPL.


Thank you for your comments, and YES we agree-- we would like to be the #1 library once again, as we are currently ranked #4 in the county in our category by the HAPLR index.

In regard to your last comment, we did want to point out that there is a life cycle for books, and one way we make room for newer titles is by taking older books and those no longer used by our customers, out of circulation. If we didn’t do this, we simply would not have enough shelf space to keep adding books. Most of these materials are sold at our Annual Used Book Sale, which directly benefits DPL's Collections Department. The actual number of books in circulation year-over-year slightly varies because of budget fluctuations, however is typically at about 1.5 million, excluding reference items. Note, the total number of items in our collection was about 2.3 million last year –details can be found here:

Thanks again, we appreciate your support!

Patricia on September 1, 2011


For more than 2 years I have lived on one third of my normal income and I don't see any changes coming. I was forced to discontinued cable and all other entertainment because of cost. I re-discovered the library and use it's services constantly. From this resource, I have learned to craft, cook, sew and garden etc. in order to become more self sustaining. I am able to read wonderful books and watch DVD's that not only teach but transport me to other worlds. This is the only entertainment at my disposal during this difficult time and I, for one am grateful to the Library System and it's employees for providing this great service. I know many others are in the same situation and it would be a crime to take this service away.

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