Denver Library plans cuts, Byers branch closing
The Denver Public Library is proposing to close its Byers branch and cut weekly service hours by 18 percent across the system next year to help offset the city’s 2010 budget deficit.
“We think we can meet the budget projections without layoffs,” said Diane Lapierre, director of community relations for the library.
Denver is facing a $120 million shortfall next year, and all agencies and departments have been asked to trim their 2010 budgets by 14 percent.
Last month, the Denver Library Commission approved a $3 million cut for next year, or roughly a 10 percent reduction from its 2009 general fund budget.
The Denver Public Library draws 89 percent of its revenue from the city’s general fund, or about $32.3 million in 2009. The total budget for this year was $36.2 milion, with $2.8 million coming from private funds and $983,000 from state and federal sources. DPL has 393 full-time equvalents on staff.
DPL held a community meeting last month and conducted an online survey to determine what kind of cuts customers would be willing to accept and what criteria should be used to close branches or reduce service hours.
“The proposal considered by the Library Commission included only one possible branch closure and a significant reduction in hours across the system, reflecting the preference of both staff and customers,” said Celeste Jackson, DPL spokeswoman.
Customers were asked to rank the three options DPL could take to cut costs: reduce hours across the system, close and sell seven branches, or a combination of closings and reductions.
Most (68 percent) would choose reduction of hours across the system first, followed by a combination of closings and reduction of hours (22 percent), then branch closings (9 percent).
Library users also ranked the criteria for selecting a branch for service reductions or closings. Slightly more than half (56 percent) indicated that building usage was very important, followed by location of libraries in neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income children (43 percent), proximity to another branch (35 percent) and building limitations (8 percent).
The proposed budget cuts are in the following areas:
- Reduction in weekly service hours
The majority of the savings from the proposed 2010 budget — $1.5 million — will come from reducing the weekly hours at the branch libraries, from 1,016 hours this year to 836 hours in 2010
Four branch libraries — Bear Valley, Montbello, Woodbury and University Hills — will have their service hours cut to 40 hours a week. Fourteen other branches will be open only 32 hours a week, and the Central Library will be closed on Sundays.
The specific service hours for each library branch are still being determined.
- Closing and selling the Byers branch library, 675 Santa Fe Drive
DPL will save an estimated $604,000 by shuttering this branch. The savings will come from shifting the four FTE positions to other branches and selling the building at current market value.
The Byers branch, which was named after Rocky Mountain News founder William N. Byers, was one of nine Denver libraries built between 1913 and 1920 using funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Built in 1918, the Byers branch has been designated a historic landmark by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission. At 4,000 square feet, it is one of the smallest branches in the DPL system, according to Lapierre. Only the Westwood branch is smaller — 1,000 square feet — but that library shares space with a community center.
Only five of the Carnegie libraries in Denver remain in use: Byers, Smiley, Decker, Woodbury and Park Hill. The original Central Library building, located in Civic Center, is being used by the city and county of Denver.
Two factors led to the selection of Byers for closing. One is its proximity to three other libraries: Central, Woodbury and Ross-Broadway. The second was usage. Last year, the Byers library served only 65,573 visitors, far less than any other branch in the system.
“This recommendation nets a savings of $604,000 from reduction and revenue and meets with the criteria by which any such action would be considered,” Jackson said.
In an online survey conducted by the Denver mayor’s office this year, 58.9 percent of the respondents said they would rather see across-the-board cuts in library hours, compared with 41.1 percent who said they would rather see library closings, in order to save the city money.
- Branch renovation vacancy savings
DPL will save about $400,000 next year during the renovation of three to four branch libraries by redeploying eight FTEs to other branches
- Eliminate some admnistrative/support positions
DPL will save another $320,000 by not filling 6.5 FTE positions that are already vacant or will be lost due to retirement next year.
“Some positions will be held, but we will option not to fill them,” Lapierre said.
- Materials budget reductions
More than $250,000 will be cut from the materials budget. That means not only fewer books, magazines, CDs and movies, but also fewer online databases.
“It will be based on customer useage,” Lapierre said. “We will have fewer copies of things, and we will cut subscriptions to electronic media databases.”
She also noted that the materials budget has been steadily cut by 25 percent in the past few years, down to $5.2 million, or 13 percent of the budget in 2009.
The budget cuts obviously will have a huge impact on library patrons.
“It will mean that people will have significantly less access to the library through these reductions,” Lapierre said. “It will mean people will not be able to get into the branch libraries, and there will be less stuff when you get there.”
She added that although the library branches probably will be much busier during the hours that they are open, “we do remain committed to providing the best services that we possibly can.”
DPL’s final budget will not be set until after the mayor and City Council have reviewed it, along with the budgets from other city departments and agencies.
The mayor must submit the city’s 2010 budget to the City Council on Sept. 15.