Denver libraries could fall victim to budget cuts

6:25 PM, Apr 22, 2011   |    comments
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"This is the first time it's been this serious," city librarian Shirley Amore, said. "We know how important these branches are to the communities and we do not want to close them."

Amore said these are dark times for Denver's library system.

Just like other city agencies, the library system has to cut next year's budget by 9 percent.
That amounts to about $2.5 million. Officials are considering three options.

One option would keep all branches open but only operate three days a week. Option two would drastically cut the money to buy new books, music, and computers. Option three would keep the current hours and funding but close seven to twelve branches. The branch locations have not been determined yet, but would be chosen based on a number of factors, Amore said.

Amore believes the third option, while undesirable, would allow the remaining libraries to continue to offer reasonable hours while supplying new materials.

Ironically, bond money is allowing the city of Denver to build three new branches. By law, the bond money can only be used for infrastructure. Bond cannot fund the operation of libraries including the salaries of 450 employees.

Amore said no decision has been made on layoffs, although the city was able to avoid them in two previous budget cuts.

"Why the library?" college student Amado Rodriguez, asked. "This is where learning happens."

People visited Denver libraries 9 million times in 2010 and 40 percent of computer lab users were unemployed and looking for work.

"People are coming to us for all kinds of reasons particularly in this economic downturn because people are looking for jobs," Amore said.

Library officials are proposing a plan to keep all branches open. They want to create a library district paid for by a property tax increase. Denver voters would have to approve it. Voters in Aurora shot down a similar proposal in 2009. That city had to close four of its libraries.

"The library is definitely a big part of what we do," Shelby Spooner, a nanny reading to three children, said. "It would be horrible to close them."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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