A consultant has concluded that the Longmont Public Library “is too small to serve a community of this size, especially one that is growing.”
Indiana-based Kimberly Bolan and Associates says having a single location for its library — in this case the 300 block between Kimbark and Emery streets — “is somewhat unusual for a city of this size, unless the single library facility is very large,” city staff reported in a memo to City Council.
The staff memo precedes a Tuesday night council study session review of the proposed operating budget the city administration has recommended for the Longmont Public Library for 2021.
Longmont retained the consulting firm late last year “to conduct a feasibility study for the Longmont Public Library to discover the community’s desires for a 21st century library and recommend sustainable funding models to offer desired services and facilities,” staff reminded in its memo for Tuesday night’s meeting.
The consulting firm had originally planned, after gathering information from the city and the community earlier this year, to present that information at “a stakeholder retreat” in March or April, but staff said those further steps have not yet progressed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staff said that last month, it asked Bolan and Associates to compile a preliminary report of the findings thus far, along with recommendations on best practices moving forward, but not to go ahead with a planned financial analysis at this time.
City staff has received a draft copy of the consultant’s report. Additional statistical data are being supplied and some revisions being made prior to its public release.
However, there are “a few overarching themes from the analyses” in that draft report, staff wrote council, including the conclusion about Longnmont’s current library being too small. Among the others:
- “The Longmont community uses and values the library.”
- “Circulation is very high compared to peer libraries,” elsewhere in Colorado and across the county.
- The Longmont Public Library’s “expenditures per capita are low compared to peer libraries.”
- The library’s “print materials are strong, but digital holdings lag.”
- Attendance at library programs attendance “is robust, despite lack of funding. Almost all programs are funded by the Friends of the Library,” a nonprofit organization that raises money to supplement the facility’s city budget funding.
- “Areas seen as needing the most improvement were parking, state-of-the-art technology, accessibility, and adequacy of collections.”
“The current library building is about 51,000 square feet, built for a population of up to 68,000,” Longmont Community Services Director Karen Roney said Monday in an email. “Using multiple formulas, the consultants have estimated that the Library should be in the 80,000 to 85,000 square foot range now, and in the 95,000 to 100,000 square foot range as Longmont is built out in the future.”
Roney said, “Longmont circulated 1,151,060 items last year from its single facility. This included 1,029,096 physical items. Other libraries in Colorado with higher circulation are multi-branch systems, and most are open longer hours.”
She said the library has increased spending on e-materials over the past several years.
“The ebooks and print books all come out of the same budget line item, so the Library spends more on e-materials, they spend less on print materials where the demand is still very strong,” Roney said.
“This year, due to COVID-19, the demand for e-materials is even more robust. When the library purchases new materials, patrons now expect those materials to be in print, in e-book format, in large print, in audio CD and in digital audio. In order to provide popular materials in all of those formats, we either need to spend more or cut down on the number of titles available.”
The consulting firm’s coronavirus-interrupted study stems from a pair of May 2019 Council actions. In one of those votes, council directed staff to report on the feasibility of creating a tax-supported library district, which would shift pubic library funding out of the city budget. In the other, council voted to instruct staff to examine possible alternatives to asking voters to authorize establishing the district and the property tax increase that would be needed to pay for the library’s operating costs and capital improvements.
As part of the overall $371.78 million overall municipal budget being proposed for 2021, Longmont’s city administration has recommended a $3.79 million operating budget for the Community Services Department’s Library Division next year, up from the $3.76 million originally budgeted for that division for 2020.
Roney said spending on the library feasibility study “is not to exceed $50,000.”
In its memo, staff said it will return to council later this fall to share more details found in the preliminary report about the adequacy of library services and programs for Longmont and will then seek council direction.
Roney said in her Monday email that “we have not identified the specific date for sharing this report with City Council, the Library Board, and staff, but imagine we should be able to do this sometime in October.”
The budget review agenda item on Council’s Tuesday night study session agenda — in addition to reviewing highlights from the preliminary report about library needs — is to include a total fund-by-fund 2021 budget summary, revenue projections, summaries of next year’s General Fund and Public Safety, and recommendations for spending on early childhood education, human services agencies, and affordable-housing programs.
If you watch
What: Longmont City Council study session
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Council and city staff members will be participating from remote locations. Residents can watch the meeting by clicking “play” on the video link within the interactive agenda window.
Further information: Documents detailing the Longmont city staff’s recommendations for an overall $371.78 million 2021 city budget, an $84.7 million set of capital improvement projects within that operating budget and a proposed 2021-2025 five-year capital improvement program — along with the staff’s recommendations for employees’ pay and benefits next year — are available through links on a city budget web page at tinyurl.com/y2v6stjt.