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State grant helps power library resources

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Libraries take in plenty of overdue fines throughout the course of a year, but, contrary to popular belief, the total amount accumulated in that way accounts for a small percentage of a library district's total budget. Library funding is always an interesting challenge, as libraries rely on numerous revenue sources and budgets that fluctuate according to local economies, available grants, donations and more. Delta County Libraries is no different; district director Lea Hart and other staff study the budget regularly, looking for ways to save money and seeking alternative reliable revenue sources.

One source that has been consistent over the last three years is a grant from the State of Colorado, made possible by the State Grants for Libraries Act. The purpose of this grant is defined in the Colorado Revised Statutes (24-90-402): "The state will make grant moneys available to publicly-supported libraries...to enable these institutions to obtain educational resources they would otherwise be unable to afford, to the end that the state will receive the corresponding benefits of a better educated and informed population."

According to the Colorado State Library, funds were first appropriated for this purpose in 2001, but the funding only lasted for two years. It was then renewed in 2013 and, due to strong support throughout the state, has increased yearly since then. In 2015-16, almost $2.5 million went to 315 public and academic libraries around the state, serving a population of over six million people.

The portion that Delta County Libraries received in 2016 was just enough to fund two vital electronic resources. One is OverDrive, which is the website that supplies patrons with e-books, e-audiobooks, magazines and more. Countywide circulation through OverDrive is constantly increasing, with numbers going up 11 percent between a six-month period in 2015 and the same period in 2016.

The other resource is Universal Class, a database that delivers high-level classes in over 500 subjects, from animal training to web design to small business management. Delta County Libraries technology manager Markee Travis has taught many computer classes to library patrons and initially, in order to teach confidently, she relied on Universal Class to reach an expert level of confidence in many subject areas, including Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. She states, "I know of no other free classes of this kind to fulfill the needs of residents in Delta County, and our library patrons regularly benefit, both directly and indirectly, from the library district's subscription to this product." These resources are free to patrons with valid library cards.

While she is pleased to be able to offer such products, Hart cautions, "We appreciate what we can do with the money provided by the state, but we still have to be extremely conscious of our spending and budget."

Hart is about to enter into a strategic planning process with the Delta County Libraries board of trustees, after which she will be working on the budget for 2017. "It is paramount that we sort out our priorities as a library district before we try to complete the budget. We need to determine how we can best meet the needs of our residents. It is going to be a challenging number of months, but I think all of Delta County will benefit from the extra work."

She continues, "The fact that the purpose of this grant is to pay for educational resources we would not be able to afford otherwise really hits home. I know there will be things in future years that we will find we cannot afford without the support of the state, our local governments and our communities."

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