Library Services on the Move
Note: This is part of a multi-part series on how JCPL adds value to the community.
One of the little known facts about Jefferson County Public Library (JCPL) is that our reach extends well beyond our ten libraries. We also deliver important outreach services via our Bookmobile.
- The JCPL Bookmobile provides bi-monthly visits to 45 senior retirement and assisted living facilities to deliver books and other materials to seniors who can’t get to the Library.
- The Bookmobile also visits inmates at three correctional facilities: the minimal security camp of the Federal Corrections Institute Englewood located in Littleton and both the men’s and women’s facility of the Intervention Community Corrections Services program (ICCS) in Lakewood. Twice a month, inmates at these institutions have access to Library materials and reference help for educational development, personal interest, and recreational viewing and reading.
- Since 2014, JCPL has been providing weekly Bookmobile service to South County residents. We've known for some time that South Jefferson County is one of our most underserved areas. The Columbine Library (7706 W Bowles Avenue in Littleton), was built in 1989 to serve South County residents, but since then, the South Jeffco population has more than doubled. Since we can’t afford to build another library in South Jefferson County, we’re offering bookmobile services as a stop-gap measure. Every Saturday, from 12-4 p.m., the Bookmobile visits the Safeway parking lot at Ken Caryl Ave. and Shaffer Pkwy, where patrons can access some of our most popular services: checking out and returning materials; placing and picking up holds; and finding information about library services. The collection holds more than 2,000 items for people of all ages in a variety of formats—books, DVDs, and audiobooks.
Library access for many Jeffco residents is limited by location, access to transportation and library hours. The Bookmobile allows us to extend our services outside of our physical buildings; in fact, the bookmobile receives over 10,000 visits and checks out over 40,000 items annually.
We’re grateful to be able to offer these services, and our patrons are grateful, too. Here's a comment we received from one of our Senior Bookmobile patrons: "My name is Pam Bliss. I am a Senior (87 years old). Bless Jefferson County Public Library. The Bookmobile service at Willow Glen Complex is my lifeline to books. With no transportation, or the ability to walk in winter conditions, it is greatly appreciated!"
We're quietly providing value person by person, in and out of libraries, every day. That's what library service is all about.
Libraries: Myth Versus Reality
Every now and again, we run into someone who thinks that the Internet has made libraries obsolete. This is one of the great urban myths of our time!
If you’re not a regular library user, you may not see the value of libraries. We see it on a daily basis. Jeffco residents access our services millions of times every year to teach their children how to read, support educational and career development objectives, look for work, build their businesses, engage with current events and stay engaged through our Senior outreach services.
- Libraries are perceived as a valuable community asset. Two-thirds of survey respondents said closing the library would have a major impact on their community; and a third said it would have a major impact on them and their families.
- There is continued demand for library services. Forty-six percent of all Americans (ages 16 and over) have visited a library or a bookmobile in-person in the prior year, and 22 percent have used library websites. Between use of library websites and in-person visits to libraries or bookmobiles, half of all Americans ages 16 or older have had been library users of some sort in the past 12 months. Additionally, four-out-of-five Americans say they have used the library at some point.
- People are using the library to meet important personal and community objectives.
- Twenty-seven percent of those who have visited a public library in the past 12 months have used its computers, internet connection or Wi-Fi signal to go online.
- Among those who have used a public library website or mobile app in the past 12 months, 42 percent have used it for research or homework help.
- For those who have used a public library’s computers or Wi-Fi signal to go online, 60 percent have used those tools for research or school work.
- Approximately 23 percent of those who have paid a visit to a library in the past year did so to look for or apply for a job. In addition, some 14 percent of those who logged on to the internet using a library’s computer or internet connection in the past year did so to acquire job-related skills or to increase their income.
- Sixty-six percent of those who visited a library in the past 12 months say they borrowed print books, 42 percent asked the librarian for help, 53 percent used the library as a reading or studying locale, and 16 percent of library users in the past year have attended a meeting there.
- The Library continues to provide a safety net for minority, low-income and disenfranchised populations, especially in offering access to technology and jobs.
- Thirty-eight percent of African Americans who have used the library in the last 12 months have used the computers, the internet or Wi-Fi there, and 28 percent say libraries help “a lot” in the job search and workforce skills arena.
- Thirty-two percent of Hispanics have used library computers, the internet or WiFi, and 34 percent appreciate help with jobs and workforce skills development.
- Thirty-one percent of those living in homes whose annual incomes are $30,000 or less have used these online resources at the library, and 26 percent utilize the job search/workforce development resources.
As John F. Kennedy said, "The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
If you've heard this urban myth and wonder about the future of libraries, we'd like to highlight some truths about JCPL. Over the next few weeks, I plan to showcase some of our high-value services (and impacts) and bust this particular myth, once and for all.
Election Information at the Library
"The library is central to our free society. It is a critical element in the free exchange of information at the heart of our democracy."
This quote, from Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, is one of my favorites.
Libraries have long been staunch supporters of the democratic process. For years, all JCPL libraries have put out election tables where Jeffco residents can find information about candidates and issues. Anyone can place election materials on the tables, and all are invited to do so.
Election tables went up this week. If you're looking for information on the Nov. election, be sure to check them out!
JCPL: Jeffco's Secret Weapon
Most Jeffco residents appreciate the library's role in promoting literacy and learning, but few are aware of the library's impact on economic development. In fact, we're a valuable and often overlooked weapon in the economic development arsenal.
Jefferson County Public Library supports economic development by:
• Supporting early literacy and education;
• Contributing to a technologically literate workforce;
• Providing critical resources for job seekers;
• Supporting local businesses and startups;
• Anchoring commercial developments and redevelopments; and
• Contributing to a community’s quality of life.
We've just completed a white paper that documents our contributions. You can access it here.
If you'd like to be updated on economic development programs and resources, join our economic development mailing list.
The Importance of Benchmarking
AT JCPL, we benchmark our performance against libraries like ours in communities like ours. It's an important part of putting our performance into perspective.
When folks enter our libraries, they generally have a positive experience. Our staff are trained and dedicated to providing excellent customer service, regardless of the challenges we may be facing behind the scenes.
Last week I talked about our ongoing budget challenges. The worst part of our financial challenge is the fact that years of operating on a shoestring have had a major impact on our performance -- especially when you compare us to our library peers.
Most people don't see this. When we polled Jeffco residents, we learned that:
• a majority of those polled believe we're doing a good job;
• they believe our customer service is great; and
• a majority have no awareness of our budget challenges.
The benchmarking data tells a different story.
We've been operating in survival mode for so long, our service has declined to dangerously low levels. Other metro area public libraries are able to offer access to better technology, including better software programs, laptops for check-out, mobile applications and more. Here, we struggle to provide basic services. We're providing access to Microsoft Office 7, while others have moved on to Microsoft Office 13; our public access computers are running on Windows 7, while others are running on Windows 10 or 12; and the number of public access computers we provide to Jeffco residents places us in the bottom quartile of performance.
Sadly, JCPL is performing at or below the 25th percentile in other key performance measures as well, including:
• hours open;
• materials per capita;
• eBooks per 1,000 people served;
• square footage per capita; and
• full time equivalents (FTEs) per 1,000 people served.
Because we're open so few hours, we also rank in the bottom quartile for the number of early literacy storytimes we're able to offer, the number of reference transactions (per capita) we're able to process, and the number of Jeffco residents who participate in Summer Reading.
When we shared this data with community leaders, we heard the words "troubling", "appalling" and "embarrassing".
I have my own word for it: tragic.
Going forward, we need sufficient financial resources to be able to deliver a more responsible level of service, and we look forward to the day when we can give Jeffco residents the level of services they need and deserve.
Can you believe that the year is almost half over?
We've been so busy, I've barely had time to breathe, much less maintain a robust blog calendar. But now, with summer finally here, we all have a little time to catch up.
You can catch up with us, too!
We've posted the following documents on our web site:
- 2014 Annual Report
- 2015 Budget Document
- 2015 Strategy Document
You can access them here. They provide a good snapshot of where we are.
We have a million great things going on, with more to come... and I look forward to sharing it all with you!
Help Us Plan Our Future
Don’t forget! Our annual community meetings are coming up.
These meetings are designed to provide an update on library services, solicit input from library patrons and other Jefferson County residents and respond to community concerns.
Meetings are scheduled for the following dates and times.
• Monday, March 3, 1-2 p.m. - Arvada Library
• Thursday, March 6, 4-5 p.m. - Standley Lake Library
• Tuesday, March 18, 2-3 p.m. - Golden Library
• Friday, March 21, 4-5 p.m. - Columbine Library
• Monday, March 24, 3-4 p.m. - Evergreen Library
• Friday, March 28, 4-5 p.m. - Belmar Library
• Tuesday, April 1, 3:30-4:30 p.m. - Ye Olde Firehouse, Depew St. & W. 32nd Ave., Wheat Ridge
Your feedback is important to us, so please join us. We hope to see you there!
The Power of Partnership: Early Literacy
At JCPL, we're passionate about early literacy. We believe it's a critical skill that helps children from birth to five establish a solid foundation in life. It sets the stage for their future success, and it contributes to the economic growth and development of our county as a whole. Sadly, in some Jefferson County schools, fewer than 50 percent of children entering kindergarten have the skills they need to be ready to read.
We want to change that!
The Library is uniquely positioned to support early literacy. Our storytimes, based on Every Child Ready to Read, incorporate simple practices to help parents and other caregivers develop early literacy skills in our youngest residents. They are wildly popular, with demand and participation growing every year. In fact, in 2013, we presented more than 3,300 storytimes to nearly 89,000 participants.
Unfortunately, in this era of shrinking resources, we find ourselves nearly maxed out in the number of storytimes we can offer at our libraries. With our current hours of operation, we're hard pressed to meet the ever-growing demand for these services during library hours.
However, as they say, "where there's a will, there's a way."
I'm pleased to announce that we've found a way to extend our early literacy storytimes, through an innovative partnership with Jefferson County’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and the Triad Early Childhood Council. Beginning this year, JCPL will support CCAP and TRIAD in their efforts to increase access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers from families with low income. In its initial stages, the program will provide 19 Jefferson County child-care facilities with materials, resources, coaching and professional development to support high-quality services. We're supporting this effort by presenting early literacy storytimes at these facilities and by offering coaching, materials and other early literacy resources to staff, parents and caregivers.
At JCPL, we believe every child should have a solid start in life. Now, thanks to TRIAD and CCAP, we can help more children realize that dream.
A Wonderful Christmas Present
Amidst the litter of wrapping paper and ribbon last week, I found a wonderful Christmas present. I opened my email to find this photo:
It's a picture of Bookmobile Patron Ruth Gartrell, who happened to be our 10,000th bookmobile visitor this year. Rich Allen, our bookmobile supervisor, surprised Ruth with balloons and flowers to celebrate this milestone. Needless to say, it was a happy day for all involved.
Even more heart-warming are the trends we're seeing in bookmobile use. The number of bookmobile visitors has increased every year for the past eight, despite the fact that we downsized that business unit in late 2010. This is the first time we've reached the 10,000-visitor milestone in a single year.
It's a testament to Rich (and all of the other library employees) who work within significant budgetary constraints, and yet provide exceptional library services year after year.
That, my friends, is the best Christmas present ever, and a wonderful way to start off the new year!
Important Update on the Library's Budget
At its December meeting, the Library Board of Trustees adopted our 2014 budget. I'm pleased to report that we'll be able to maintain current service levels and make modest investments in staff and technology, while keeping expenses well in line with revenues in 2014.
This is a major accomplishment. Since the economy went south in 2008, we've had to use money from savings to help us balance our budget -- in each of the past three years. We'll enjoy a bit of a reprieve in 2014, primarily due to the fact that we paid off our debt for the Belmar Library in 2013. This will allow us to allocate $716,000 of previous debt expense to other service areas next year.
I wish I could say our financial challenges are behind us; however, our forecasts suggest otherwise.
As we consider these future challenges, the Library Board of Trustees has undertaken an initiative to evaluate options for achieving a sustainable business model, including investigating ways to increase library revenues. This is one of the most important initiatives we'll be undertaking in 2014, so stay tuned.
We'll be providing updates as we go along.