July 4 - All libraries will be closed for Independence Day.
The Importance of Benchmarking
AT JCPL, we benchmark our performance against libraries like ours in communities like ours. It's an important part of putting our performance into perspective.
When folks enter our libraries, they generally have a positive experience. Our staff are trained and dedicated to providing excellent customer service, regardless of the challenges we may be facing behind the scenes.
Last week I talked about our ongoing budget challenges. The worst part of our financial challenge is the fact that years of operating on a shoestring have had a major impact on our performance -- especially when you compare us to our library peers.
Most people don't see this. When we polled Jeffco residents, we learned that:
• a majority of those polled believe we're doing a good job;
• they believe our customer service is great; and
• a majority have no awareness of our budget challenges.
The benchmarking data tells a different story.
We've been operating in survival mode for so long, our service has declined to dangerously low levels. Other metro area public libraries are able to offer access to better technology, including better software programs, laptops for check-out, mobile applications and more. Here, we struggle to provide basic services. We're providing access to Microsoft Office 7, while others have moved on to Microsoft Office 13; our public access computers are running on Windows 7, while others are running on Windows 10 or 12; and the number of public access computers we provide to Jeffco residents places us in the bottom quartile of performance.
Sadly, JCPL is performing at or below the 25th percentile in other key performance measures as well, including:
• hours open;
• materials per capita;
• eBooks per 1,000 people served;
• square footage per capita; and
• full time equivalents (FTEs) per 1,000 people served.
Because we're open so few hours, we also rank in the bottom quartile for the number of early literacy storytimes we're able to offer, the number of reference transactions (per capita) we're able to process, and the number of Jeffco residents who participate in Summer Reading.
When we shared this data with community leaders, we heard the words "troubling", "appalling" and "embarrassing".
I have my own word for it: tragic.
Going forward, we need sufficient financial resources to be able to deliver a more responsible level of service, and we look forward to the day when we can give Jeffco residents the level of services they need and deserve.
Library's Budget Woes Continue
Not so long ago, Jefferson County Public Library was recognized as a leader in library services. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Ongoing budget challenges have put pressure on our services, our performance measures and our savings.
Since the economic downturn began in 2008, the Library has been operating in survival mode. Revenues in 2015 were down $2.9 million from pre-recession levels, and the cumulative impact of reduced revenues from 2008 to 2015 now totals more than $18 million. As a result, we’ve been forced to reduce hours (twice!), lay off the equivalent of nearly 80 full-time positions, reduce our investment in library materials and technology, and delay important capital projects. In fact, we now have more than $14 million of unfunded capital projects backed up in our pipeline.
All of this has had a significant negative impact on our service levels. We are no longer the leading library system we used to be; in fact, we now rank at or below the 25th percentile in a number of key service and performance measures when compared to national peer libraries.
We’ve been operating at seriously reduced levels for seven years now, and if we can't work to restore services soon, we risk leaving a whole generation of Jefferson County residents behind.
Given recent improvements in the economy, we've been hoping for some relief in 2016. However, we learned last week that the County is asking us to base our 2016 plan and budget on current revenue levels. While we remain optimistic that we'll see some additional revenues in 2016, we're not seeing the increase we had hoped for.
Going forward, our challenge is to find enough money to deliver a more responsible level of library services -- by restoring hours, providing more library materials and updating technology -- and to complete our unfunded capital projects. Our goal is to bring JCPL's performance closer to the median (compared to our peers), with the long-range goal of eventually reclaiming our position as a leading library system.
I hope you'll work with us as we strive to improve Library services in Jefferson County.
For additional information about our 2015 budget challenges, click here.
Can you believe that the year is almost half over?
We've been so busy, I've barely had time to breathe, much less maintain a robust blog calendar. But now, with summer finally here, we all have a little time to catch up.
You can catch up with us, too!
We've posted the following documents on our web site:
- 2014 Annual Report
- 2015 Budget Document
- 2015 Strategy Document
You can access them here. They provide a good snapshot of where we are.
We have a million great things going on, with more to come... and I look forward to sharing it all with you!
Help Us Plan Our Future
Don’t forget! Our annual community meetings are coming up.
These meetings are designed to provide an update on library services, solicit input from library patrons and other Jefferson County residents and respond to community concerns.
Meetings are scheduled for the following dates and times.
• Monday, March 3, 1-2 p.m. - Arvada Library
• Thursday, March 6, 4-5 p.m. - Standley Lake Library
• Tuesday, March 18, 2-3 p.m. - Golden Library
• Friday, March 21, 4-5 p.m. - Columbine Library
• Monday, March 24, 3-4 p.m. - Evergreen Library
• Friday, March 28, 4-5 p.m. - Belmar Library
• Tuesday, April 1, 3:30-4:30 p.m. - Ye Olde Firehouse, Depew St. & W. 32nd Ave., Wheat Ridge
Your feedback is important to us, so please join us. We hope to see you there!
The Power of Partnership: Early Literacy
At JCPL, we're passionate about early literacy. We believe it's a critical skill that helps children from birth to five establish a solid foundation in life. It sets the stage for their future success, and it contributes to the economic growth and development of our county as a whole. Sadly, in some Jefferson County schools, fewer than 50 percent of children entering kindergarten have the skills they need to be ready to read.
We want to change that!
The Library is uniquely positioned to support early literacy. Our storytimes, based on Every Child Ready to Read, incorporate simple practices to help parents and other caregivers develop early literacy skills in our youngest residents. They are wildly popular, with demand and participation growing every year. In fact, in 2013, we presented more than 3,300 storytimes to nearly 89,000 participants.
Unfortunately, in this era of shrinking resources, we find ourselves nearly maxed out in the number of storytimes we can offer at our libraries. With our current hours of operation, we're hard pressed to meet the ever-growing demand for these services during library hours.
However, as they say, "where there's a will, there's a way."
I'm pleased to announce that we've found a way to extend our early literacy storytimes, through an innovative partnership with Jefferson County’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and the Triad Early Childhood Council. Beginning this year, JCPL will support CCAP and TRIAD in their efforts to increase access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers from families with low income. In its initial stages, the program will provide 19 Jefferson County child-care facilities with materials, resources, coaching and professional development to support high-quality services. We're supporting this effort by presenting early literacy storytimes at these facilities and by offering coaching, materials and other early literacy resources to staff, parents and caregivers.
At JCPL, we believe every child should have a solid start in life. Now, thanks to TRIAD and CCAP, we can help more children realize that dream.
A Wonderful Christmas Present
Amidst the litter of wrapping paper and ribbon last week, I found a wonderful Christmas present. I opened my email to find this photo:
It's a picture of Bookmobile Patron Ruth Gartrell, who happened to be our 10,000th bookmobile visitor this year. Rich Allen, our bookmobile supervisor, surprised Ruth with balloons and flowers to celebrate this milestone. Needless to say, it was a happy day for all involved.
Even more heart-warming are the trends we're seeing in bookmobile use. The number of bookmobile visitors has increased every year for the past eight, despite the fact that we downsized that business unit in late 2010. This is the first time we've reached the 10,000-visitor milestone in a single year.
It's a testament to Rich (and all of the other library employees) who work within significant budgetary constraints, and yet provide exceptional library services year after year.
That, my friends, is the best Christmas present ever, and a wonderful way to start off the new year!
Important Update on the Library's Budget
At its December meeting, the Library Board of Trustees adopted our 2014 budget. I'm pleased to report that we'll be able to maintain current service levels and make modest investments in staff and technology, while keeping expenses well in line with revenues in 2014.
This is a major accomplishment. Since the economy went south in 2008, we've had to use money from savings to help us balance our budget -- in each of the past three years. We'll enjoy a bit of a reprieve in 2014, primarily due to the fact that we paid off our debt for the Belmar Library in 2013. This will allow us to allocate $716,000 of previous debt expense to other service areas next year.
I wish I could say our financial challenges are behind us; however, our forecasts suggest otherwise.
As we consider these future challenges, the Library Board of Trustees has undertaken an initiative to evaluate options for achieving a sustainable business model, including investigating ways to increase library revenues. This is one of the most important initiatives we'll be undertaking in 2014, so stay tuned.
We'll be providing updates as we go along.
Mountain Library Advocates Take Note
The Conifer Recreation Coalition is seeking resident input on recreational opportunities in the Conifer area, and we wouldn't want them to forget the Library!
If you'd like to weigh in on the kinds of facilities and activities you'd like to see, take the survey today. It closes on Dec. 15, so don't delay.
Countdown to Midnight
It's Colorado Gives Day today.
In one 24-hour period, Colorado residents are asked to go online and donate something to their favorite charity. Last year they raised a total of $15 million for hundreds of non-profits across the state -- a heartening testament to the generosity and compassion of our friends and neighbors. This year, they hope to raise at least $17 million.
Jefferson County Library Foundation is one of the non-profits participating today. They're collecting donations to support early literacy programs at Jefferson County Public Library. Won't you consider making a donation today?
It doesn't cost much to make a big difference. At Colorado Gives Day, they'll accept online donations starting at $10.
Imagine if every library cardholder pledged $10! We'd raise more than $3.25 million in a single day!
Take a minute to show your support of early literacy and JCPL. Donate today!
So, we've filled up on turkey and football, spent time with friends and family and had a few quiet moments to think about the things we're thankful for. Now it's back to work, and I'm reminded how lucky I am to be working for a library.
The list of things I'm thankful for would fill the stacks, so let me just name a few:
I'm grateful that I come to work every day with such wonderful people. Library employees are a special breed. They're here because they believe in the promise of libraries -- equal access to information and opportunity for all. They step up day after day and go the extra mile minute by minute to help our patrons find what they need. I am blessed to know and work with them.
I'm grateful for our Board of Trustees. They help us navigate the choppy waters of declining revenues and increased service demands, and they do it gracefully and well. They give unstintingly of their time and talents, and we are lucky to have them.
I'm grateful that the work I do has meaning. Every day, I hear stories of how we actually change people's lives. Patrons use us to give their children the best possible start in life, to help them succeed in school and learn critical job and life skills; they use us to stay abreast of evolving technologies, find employment, build businesses, and participate in public life; and in later life, they use us to stay connected to the world of people and ideas. On any given day, I can walk into the Library and see these transformations taking place, and I am unbelievably grateful for that.
I'm grateful to the Jefferson County Library Foundation and Friends. Their sole mission is to raise money to support Library programs and services, and each year they contribute more than $150,000 to JCPL. That money helps us to deliver early literacy programs and services, invest in technology, and stay afloat in these tough economic times.
I'm grateful for the more than 2,400 library volunteers who help us achieve our mission. They help us in the libraries; they help us with public relations and advocacy; they staff the Foundation's fund raising events and book sales (not a trivial task, by any means), and more. This year, they've contributed nearly 15,000 hours of service to JCPL, and we still have month to go!
Finally, I'm grateful for those of you who subscribe to my blog; who take such an interest in the Library; and who offer your time and support to JCPL.
Meister Eckhart once said, "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." So, to all of you, happy thanksgiving, and a prayerful "thanks" for everything you do for JCPL.