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2004

Colorado Public Libraries and the 2004 November Elections

Colorado voters had a mixed response to requests for increased funding for libraries across the state. Five of 8 ballot initiatives to raise mill levies passed, and 1 bond initiative failed. Voters in the Florence area approved a ballot initiative to create a new library district, while Mesa County voters rejected a bond issue for a new library and also a mill levy increase for maintenance projects. TABOR language was not as prevalent on this year’s ballots with only 2 library systems asking for TABOR overrides and only one being successful. Table 1 summarizes election results by type of ballot measure. Table 2 gives details about locations and voting percentages for public library measures on the November ballot (see full report for tables).

Libraries that failed to pass their ballot measures were looking for voter support for maintaining or expanding services. Cortez Public Library was hoping to double their operating budget to bring them “up to average compared to other public libraries in the state.” While they will retain current funding, failure of the referendum means that their “services will stay the same for the next few years.”

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Pricing Trends for Public Library Print Materials

Colorado’’s public libraries have recently been faced with new challenges concerning the management and maintenance of their collections. Following significant wholesale and jobber price increases in the early and mid-1990s, prices paid by public libraries for books, periodicals, and other information resources have continued to rise. The Library Research Service (LRS) has continued to monitor these trends and is using this information to assist libraries in planning for materials expenditures in the future.

Recently reported pricing figures indicate that future materials costs for public libraries will be highly dependent on the origin and format of the items in question. Figures from the Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac and the annual periodicals pricing report in Library Journal show that while these prices have continued to rise, the rates of increase have slowed in recent years and vary significantly between specific media.

LRS.org adds budget calculators

  1. Enter your library’s current budget and population.
  2. Estimate growth in the population.
  3. Choose a year through 2008.
  4. Click “Calculate” and receive an estimate of funds needed to maintain buying power adjusting for inflation and population growth.

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Downward Trend in Colorado School Library Staffing, 2000-02

Recent trends in library staffing for Colorado public schools are cause for concern. Changes in the numbers of school librarians and library aides between 2000 and 2002, and particularly their changing educational composition, suggest that school librarianship in Colorado is being de-professionalized. Because research links the presence and involvement of professional school librarians with higher CSAP test scores, this trend is an alarming one.

Net Loss in Number of School Librarians
Between 2000 and 2002…

  • There was a net loss of 14 school librarian positions.
  • While 17 additional librarians with bachelor’s degrees were added, 31 librarians with master’s degrees were lost.

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Children’s Summer Library Use

Children’s use of public libraries during the summer after kindergarten is affected by household socio-economic status (SES) and the availability of a neighborhood library, according to a new Issue Brief from the National Center for Education Statistics.1 Children from low SES households2 were less likely than other children to:

  • participate in reading events at libraries or bookstores;
  • visit parks, museums, zoos, and historic sites;
  • attend concerts or plays;
  • go on vacation; and
  • attend camp.

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National Averages Outstrip Colorado Public Librarian Salaries

Gains in librarian salaries at Colorado’s larger public libraries (i.e., those serving populations of 25,000 or more) have lagged behind salary gains for their counterparts nationally over the last two years. Colorado’s public librarians also earn less than the national average for some types of positions, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual salary survey.

The ALA survey found librarian salaries nationwide gained 4.2 percent from 2001 to 2002 and 3.6 percent from 2002 to 2003. In Colorado, the average year-to-year gains for public librarians’ salaries were 1.1 percent in 2002 and 3.0 percent in 2003.

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The Colorado Advocacy Project

The Colorado Advocacy Project, Colorado’s @your library Campaign, is a very successful statewide advocacy campaign containing elements of public relations, marketing, and community relations to build visibility and support for the state’s libraries. Funded by LSTA and sponsored by the Colorado Association of Libraries, it has been active since 2002 and is scheduled for completion in October 2004 with 3 components:

  • The Initiative (Coach/Player) Project;
  • Public Relations/Marketing Training;
  • Statewide Promotion Project.

The Coach/Player Project matched mentor libraries with trainee libraries for year-long advice and support. The first year’s project had 13 participating coaches and 11 participating players. 100% of both coaches and players completed library advocacy projects.

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The Impact of Budget Cuts on Colorado Academic Libraries

Colorado’s libraries have been heavily hit by budget cuts that have coincided with a generally grim economy the last few years. Academic libraries have felt a greater impact than those in other sectors.

In all, 25 of 33 libraries in public or non-profit colleges or universities in Colorado responded to the survey. Eighteen of these reported direct financial budget cuts of some sort since July 1, 2002. The total amount lost by these 18 libraries was $4,676,991, or an average of more than $250,000 for each affected library. Obviously, some libraries lost much more than that—with three reporting cuts upwards of one million dollars—and many reported smaller cuts. Given the range of library budgets, it is probably more appropriate to look at the percent of budgets that are being cut. Chart 1 (in full report) shows that over three-quarters of academic libraries reported budget cuts at some level. More than one-quarter of them reported cuts representing more than 15 percent of their total budgets.

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Children’s Services in Colorado Public Libraries

Children’s services have traditionally been an important part of most public libraries. Libraries try to cultivate love of reading and school readiness skills through story times, programming, and building good children’s collections. Recent research establishing the critical importance of early learning and stimulation to child development and later success in school confirms the importance of children’s services in public libraries. But how are children’s services faring in Colorado’s public libraries in the current difficult economic environment?

In 1995 Colorado’s circulation of children’s materials as a percentage of total circulation (35%) was about the national average (35%) (see Chart 1 in full report). In the years leading up to fiscal year 2001, the most recent year for which national data is available, the national percentage increased steadily from 35 percent to 37 percent while Colorado’s circulation of children’s materials has fluctuated. In 2001, the national average for children’s circulation was 37 percent of total circulation and Colorado’s statewide percentage was also 37%. Preliminary statewide data in for fiscal year 2003 shows a drop in circulation of children’s materials to 35 percent of total circulation.

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County Libraries with Dedicated Mill Levies Funded to Out-Perform County Libraries Without Mill Levies

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Colorado’s library districts is their fiscal autonomy. They receive their operating revenues from dedicated mill levies on which the electorate votes directly. Such economic independence is not unique to library districts; half of the state’s county libraries for which data are available also have dedicated mill levies. The other half receive tax revenues at the discretion of county commissioners.

The consequences of this funding mechanism for a county library’s local income per capita are dramatic (see Chart 1 in full report). On a per capita basis, county libraries that are funded by mill levies receive half again as much revenue from their counties. The average and median, respectively, for local income per capita for county libraries with mill levies are $34.46 and 32.91, respectively. The median and average, respectively, for county libraries without mill levies are $19.14 and $18.12, respectively.

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Differences in Home, School, and Library Use of the Internet by At-Risk Students, 2001

According to an October 2003 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2 out of 5 children and teens rely on the Internet to complete school assignments (see Chart 1 in full report). One-third of the respondents to the 2001 survey reported using the Internet to communicate with others via e-mail and to play games. One out of 5 K-12 students indicated obtaining news reports and finding information on products via the Internet. One out of 10 reported using the Internet to participate in online chat and listservs, to watch TV or movies, or to listen to radio.

Highlights

  • The most popular use of the Internet by children and teens is to complete school assignments.
  • The older students get, the more they rely on Internet access.
  • At-risk students——including certain racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled, the poor, those with less well-educated parents, and those from inner cities——are less likely to have access to the Internet at home.
  • Internet access via schools and public libraries helps to compensate for this inequality.

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POPULAR RESOURCES

  • Public Library Statistics & Profiles
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  • School Library Impact Studies
    School libraries have a profound impact on student achievement. Explore studies about this topic by LRS and other researchers in our comprehensive guide.
  • Fast Fact Reports
    Looking for a quick rundown of library research? Check out our Fast Facts, which highlight research and statistics about various library topics.

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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