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Planning for 2016 and Beyond


I have to admit, it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we actually passed a mill levy initiative in Jefferson County! After so much hard work and so much suspense, it’s hard to shake off the past to envision a new future for JCPL.

But what a wonderful challenge to have!

As we plan for 2016 and beyond, we're working to restore Library services and make JCPL all that it can be.

What will that look like? Here are some things you can expect:

  • We'll do a briefing on our revised budget to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners this week, and we anticipate final approval in early December.

Once the budget is approved, you should begin to see the following service improvements in 2016:

  • we'll start investing in more books and materials as quickly as we can;
  • we'll begin replacing our oldest public access computers as quickly as we can;
  • we'll work on expanding service hours at all 10 libraries, with the goal of launching new hours on April 4; and
  • we'll continue to catch up on capital projects throughout the year.

Other initiatives may take longer. For example:

  • we'll begin a measured plan to repair and refurbish Library buildings, beginning in 2017; and
  • we'll begin to plan for enhanced library services in underserved areas.

Over the next few years, we'll focus on improving our service levels. As we've disclosed previously, our performance on key service measures has fallen. In our latest benchmarking study, we found that JCPL ranked at or below the 25th percentile on key performance measures when compared to library peers. As we plan for the future, we'll work to get those rankings up -- to the 50th percentile and higher as we go forward. We want to give Jefferson County residents access to resources and services befitting a 21st century library, and put JCPL back on a path to excellence.

We're very excited about our future, and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to walking down this path to excellence with all of you!

A New Day for JCPL!


Yesterday, we learned that Jeffco voters approved a mill levy increase for the Library, our first in 29 years.

Tomorrow, we'll begin the work of restoring library services and giving Jeffco residents the services they want and deserve.

Today, I want to take a minute to acknowledge all of the wonderful people who helped us get here:

  • First, thanks to more than 5,000 library patrons and Jeffco residents, who weighed in to help us imagine a future for JCPL;
  • Our Citizen's Advisory Committee, who reviewed the Library's challenges and made thoughtful, unanimous recommendations to the Library Board;
  • The Library Board of Trustees, who reviewed our community input and voted to launch a mill levy initiative;
  • The Board of County Commissioners, who resolved to place the initiative on the ballot;
  • The Jefferson County Library Foundation and Friends, who supported us every step of the way;
  • YesforJeffcoLibraries campaign donors, who helped the Library's campaign committee launch a successful campaign;
  • Dozens of campaign volunteers, who worked tirelessly to raise money, walk neighborhoods, phone prospective voters, speak to community groups, deliver yard signs and campaign materials, cheerlead for us and offer endless encouragement and moral support;
  • Library employees, who maintained their unswerving commitment to patrons, despite multiple years of budget cuts, layoffs, reductions in service and more;
  • And finally, our library patrons, who support and uphold us and give us a reason to keep striving, even in our darkest hours.

We are enormously grateful for your passion, your interest, your civic-mindedness, your friendship and your support. The bonds of camaraderie that have brought us here will carry us forward into this new day, one in which we'll be able to fulfill our community's shared vision of library services - and become the library we know we can be.

I look forward to working with all of you as we walk hand-in-hand into this new day.

Adding Value through Inclusiveness


Note: This is part of a multi-part series on how JCPL adds value to the community.

Libraries were built on a foundational principal: that everyone deserves equal access to information and opportunity, without regard for differences in age, ethnicity, income level, education level, physical or mental capacity, political affiliation, or any other demographic.

At JCPL, our core values include serving our patrons with care and creating a welcoming environment for all. We recently launched a system-wide diversity campaign for all employees, to ensure that we understand and value diversity, continue to enhance our cultural competencies and provide relevant resources to our diverse populations.

We're doing this because Jefferson County is a culturally rich community, with representatives from every segment of the population. Here are some recent stats*:

  • A third of Jeffco Schools' students are characterized as minorities: 25 percent are Hispanic; three percent are Asian Pacific; and the remaining five percent represent a number of other ethnic backgrounds.
  • Ten percent of our population speaks a language other than English at home.
  • Nearly 20 percent of our residents are 60 years or older, and that population is expected to double in the next 20 years.
  • Nearly 10 percent of Jeffco residents are living with a disability -- and that increases to 31 percent for those aged 65 or older.
  • Nearly eight percent of residents in the civilian labor force are unemployed.
  • A third of Jeffco Schools' students qualify for free and reduced lunch. This indicates that they are living near or below federal poverty guidelines.
  • Nearly 900 residents are homeless, or living on the brink of homelessness. 

The numbers tell one story. Our experience tells another, far more interesting one.

If you walk into our libraries, you'll see that story come to life, with all of the color and gravitas that it entails. You'll see every demographic represented, and staff who are dedicated to serving them. In addition, you'll find programs and resources that offer exciting insights into the amazing and vibrant character of our community.

Here's an example: 

This photo is of one of the members of Grupo Tlaloc, a danza Azteca group, who performed at four of our libraries during Hispanic Heritage Month. Grupo Tlaloc is the first and oldest group of its kind in the Denver area, promoting 35 years of educating, performing, and understanding of the native culture of Mexico and the Native American way of life to our community.

They were awesome! And they are just one example of the panoply of resources we have available. You should come check them out.

At JCPL, we value and embrace diversity because it's the right thing to do. And in doing so, we make our own lives incredibly richer.

* Sources: Jeffco Schools website, American Community Survey 2013, Jefferson County Aging Well Project, Point in Time Survey 2013 

JCPL: Changing Lives, One Person at a Time


Note: This is part of a multi-part series on how JCPL adds value to the community.

It’s not every day someone says, “You changed my life!”  But that’s exactly what Charles Armstrong is saying about Jefferson County Public Library and the librarians at the Lakewood Library.

Charles moved to the Denver area about five years ago. When we met him, he was an out-of-work steelworker struggling to find employment. He came to the Lakewood Library seeking help with his job search.

The Library has dozens of resources available to job seekers, including online resources such as Job Now, programs offered in partnership with the American Job Center and others, and most important, personalized assistance from trained librarians. Library employees are skilled at helping Jeffco residents develop resumes, apply for jobs online, post their cover letters, resumes, training certificates and other materials on targeted job sites, and more.

One of the employees who helped Charles was patron experience associate Lindsay Masciotti. In an effort to get to know him better, she asked him to tell her about himself. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he hailed from Alabama and shared what he missed the most: “Grits! You just can’t find good grits in Colorado!”

Touched by his personal story, Lindsay suggested he insert some personal details into his cover letter. Charles followed her advice and shared his love of real grits, how steelworkers have grit, and how that grit makes him the perfect candidate for a steel working job. Over the next few days, Charles interacted with a number of other Lakewood Library employees who helped him navigate the job search process.

Shortly after posting his information on steelworker job sites, Charles began to capture employers’ attention.  The next day, he had an interview, and shortly thereafter, a job offer. He accepted! At this point, Charles has moved to Cincinnati to help build buildings and bridges.

Library employees help thousands of people every day, but we rarely get to see (or hear) the results of our efforts. In this case we did. Charles called to thank us for the help, and you can hear his message here.

This kind of direct personalized attention from trained professionals is one of the things that sets us apart from Google, Yahoo and other Internet resources. As they say in our business: "if you Google the word Librarian, you get 72,300,000 results in 0.78 seconds. When you speak to a Librarian, you get personalized attention from a trained professional who will help you find just the information you need!" 

JCPL Sweeps County Customer Service Awards


I feel like a proud mama this morning!

Last Monday, I had the privilege of attending Jefferson County's Champion Awards celebration. To kick off Customer Service Week, Jefferson County celebrated Everyday Heroes by honoring 10 employees and/or teams who exemplify customer-service excellence.

A record number of Library teams and employees were nominated for awards this year, and we had three of the 10 winners! I hope you'll join with me to congratulate them. I've also included excerpts from their nominations.

Library 2 You
Transformational customer service defines and describes this team that was just formed in July 2014 and has gone above and beyond reinventing how they approach serving customers outside library walls. They do an outstanding job in bringing library services and resources to patrons through their bookmobile service, home services to patrons who do not have the ability to be mobile and are home bound. They also serve patrons of all ages at family stops, serve over 600 senior patrons in senior and assisted living centers in Jefferson County, and serve incarcerated patrons by taking the bookmobile to the Federal Corrections Center. The team has seen a 46 percent increase in circulation of their materials from last year, doubled the number of volunteers who assist Library 2 You, and eliminated isolation of seniors through an innovative Dial–A-Book Club initiative.
The Golden Library Remodel Team
Last summer, the Golden Library was closed for 12 weeks for an extensive remodel. The question arose – how do you provide Library services to the community when your building is closed? Through the dedication of many JCPL staff, led by Library Manager Carroll Mannino, services to patrons continued with:
•    Story times at the Golden Community Center
•    Adult Book Group meetings at a local Starbucks
•    Teen Advisory Board and DIY Explorers Club meetings at Golden High School
•    Young Readers Club meetings at the Astor House
•    Bookmobile visits (pick up and returns) in the parking lot of the Golden Library.
The preparation and coordination of moving these events to other locations was huge. Golden Library staff jumped in and helped when needed; those assigned to other Libraries during the closure accepted their new assignments and locations with enthusiasm. When it was time to re-open the Golden Library, staff was on hand with the HUGE task of restocking the Library with a new collection. Through their efforts, we were able to maintain key services during the closure, and we now have a beautiful, state-of-the-art Library for all to enjoy.

Librarian Sean Eads
There are many things Sean does – but specifically in the technology assistance and the individualized customer service arenas. Example: a patron asked if they could have the Sunday New York Times magazine when we get rid of two month old newspapers. Every month Sean makes sure to get it out of the recycle bin and saves it for the patron. Sean is also the go-to guy for difficult-to-solve technology questions from patrons who bring an incredible variety of electronic devices in with no idea of how to use them or what they can do. His patience with these patrons is outstanding.

I also want to acknowledge others who were nominated: The Columbine Library Operations Team and employees Janell Kerski and Polly Tagg.

Our employees have been through tough times. When Library revenues were reduced, they watched nearly 100 fellow employees lose their jobs. We now have one of the most leanly staffed libraries in the nation, and all of our employees have taken on extra work to cover for the employees we lost. And yet they remain cheerful, professional, and passionate about serving patrons well.

Congratulations to the 2015 Customer Service Champion award winners and all Library nominees!

I'm busting my buttons!

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.

In April, the Pew Research Center published a study entitled Libraries at the Crossroads that documents the value of libraries. Among other things, the study found that:

  • 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.


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