Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misreported Boulder Library Commission Vice-Chair Juana Gomez’s position. The story below has been updated.
After it was announced April 14 that 70 percent of library employees would be furloughed due to COVID-19 budget cuts, the Boulder Library Foundation was quick to offer support. Just two days after the furloughs were announced, the foundation voted to launch a local “Help A Library Worker Out” fund, or HALO fund.
The fund was inspired by a HALO fund put together by national organization “Every Library.” Alicia Gibb, vice-chair for the Boulder Library Foundation, said it wanted to organize a more localized version of the national fund.
The Boulder Library Foundation donated an initial $10,000 to the local HALO fund, and will fully match an additional $25,000 in donations from the community.
The fund received $5,000 in donations in its first week. Many of those donations were in the $100 range, indicating there have been quite a few donors.
David Farnan, director of Boulder Public Library, said while some of the furloughed employees he spoke to told him they have other sources of income and will be OK, others expressed uncertainty about their economic standing. The furlough is scheduled to last through June 28, but that could be adjusted if the city’s budget warrants changes..
“It was hard. We are in a crisis, and I completely understand because there’s so much uncertainty, but it was heartbreaking,” he added.
The foundation will allocate support evenly to library workers, sending $500 to those who apply. If funds haven’t been exhausted in a couple of months and furloughs are still in place,employees will be allowed to apply for support a second time, Gibb said.
“Of course we need our doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, and all of our public health workers. All of those people obviously have needs and definitely need to be taken care of, but Ithink right on their heels are librarians,” Gibb said. “I think in times like these people lose their own resources, and they need resources that are provided by the library. Things like computers, and internet services.”
Library Commission Vice-Chair Juana Gomez said that the future of the library’s city-funded budget is “up in the air” in the midst of changes being made because of the crisis.
“There could be further cuts. There could be permanent layoffs. There could be further furloughs. We don’t know at this point,” she said.
City Council met on April 28 to discuss future COVID response efforts, but no decisions about further cuts were made at the meeting.
Former Boulder Library Commissioner Joni Teter, who is working with Gomez as part of the grassroots organization Boulder Library Champions that works to get secured, dedicated funding for the library from City Council, said because the city’s budget and revenue projections are down, all departments are being asked to present budgets with 10 percent cuts.
That could hit the library’s staff particularly hard, because their salaries comprise 75 percent of the library’s budget, according to Teter.
“If they have to take cuts, they have to cut staff,” she said.
When the city decided to furlough workers, it identified those who are not permanent or full-time employees. Since the library has many temporary and seasonal contractor employees, Teter added, they took one of the hardest hits.
“These tend to be people at the low end of the pay scale, which was our concern for library people,” she said.
The HALO fund has received less than ten applications for support so far, but Gibb said that number is expected to go up significantly in May and June as the furlough continues.
How to help
Donations to help support furloughed library workers can be made at boulderlibraryfoundation.kindful.com/?campaign=1063758.