Say yes to libraries’ future

Posted 10/19/08

About 70 percent of the registered voters in Douglas County requested mail ballots this year. I've already got mine. And like an estimated 70 percent …

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Say yes to libraries’ future


About 70 percent of the registered voters in Douglas County requested mail ballots this year. I've already got mine. And like an estimated 70 percent of that group, I'll fill it out and return it in three days.

So by the time you read this, the election, at least in Douglas County, may be over. But please do not let that stop you from voting. We won't know the results until Nov. 4, and every vote counts.

It really does. Last year, the library lost its measure by just 210 votes out of 42,000 cast. Only 34 percent of the voters showed up last year. A little more than half of them — so 17 percent of our voters — decided the question.

I'll be honest. Although I went into last year's election, as I go into this one, understanding that the universe persists in doing what it does, not what I want it to do, that loss was surprisingly painful. I found it personally disappointing that the election was lost in my own home town of Castle Rock.

As one of our newer facilities, reflecting the many things we've learned in recent years, the Philip S. Miller Library is a model of 21st century librarianship. It is deeply integrated into the life of our community, demonstrating its value in many ways every single day.

But I have concluded the obvious: Library use does not automatically translate into library support. Our demand is at least nine times greater than the national average. Yet we narrowly lost an election right after our period of greatest gain.

We can cite our return on investment study all day long. An independent agency demonstrated that we return $5.02 in services, goods, and value for every tax dollar. But some people simply cannot make the jump of thinking of taxes as investments — even when the dividend is a community they can be proud of.

We can point out our astonishing services to children. We provide thousands of programs every year. We check out more children's materials than any library in the state, when we are not the largest library, or have the most children, or even the most children's books. But if you don't have children yourself, you may not appreciate the value of early literacy.

We can underscore the point that our negotiation of donated land collapses if the library loses this election. That would make any future expansion many times more expensive, in locations not nearly as well centered. But people who haven't negotiated such agreements think, "how hard can it be?"

Eighteen years ago, Douglas County's libraries were reckoned dead last among Colorado's library systems. Today, according to a recent national ranking, we are among the top five in the entire United States. That speaks volumes (hah) about the keen interest of our residents in competent and responsive service.

But in the 12 years since our last tax increase, we've developed some capital needs that require reinvestment.

Like everyone else, I've watched with concern the recent economic thrashings on Wall Street. But I also know this: Library use takes a big jump at such times, further straining an already overstressed system.

I know, too, that tomorrow's jobs will not find their beginning on Wall Street. They'll start on Castle Pine's Monarch Boulevard, Castle Rock's Wilcox Street, Highlands Ranch Parkway, Lone Tree's Lincoln Avenue, Parker's Mainstreet, and Roxborough's Rampart Range Road.

They'll start with someone researching a business idea at the library.

I believe that while public libraries are not the only tool communities can or should use in order to thrive, it is one of our best.

Douglas County Libraries has worked hard to earn the thoughtful support of our residents, and has made its case in detail to anyone who would listen.

In turn, we have listened to voter concerns, and tightened our proposal accordingly. We reduced the request to a single mill. We will sunset 40 percent of the increase when our new buildings are paid off.

Humbly, I ask for your vote in support of the future of your library.

That vote will ensure stronger libraries for our entire county, to the immediate benefit of all our communities.

Please, say YES to libraries in 2008.

Jamie LaRue is director of Douglas County Libraries. LaRue’s Views expressed in his column are his alone. Contact LaRue at


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