“We are committed to serving and empowering the people of Delta County by providing resources for life, leisure and learning,” said Lea Hart, district director of Delta County Libraries. “The failure of Ballot Measure 7A in November does not change our mission. However, in order to operate within our financial means, we are faced with difficult choices.”
In the months leading up to the Nov. 5 election, library staff and advocates made a concerted effort to inform Delta County voters that a “no” vote would result in reduced library hours and services. Library patrons and staff began experiencing the reality of that loss in December when every library in Delta County closed for an additional full day of service.
“As we move ahead with a new schedule of hours, providing quality library services for Delta County is at the core of our decision-making,” Hart said. “We must do this within the restrictive budget constraints we are facing. Without the much-needed funds that 7A would have generated, cuts must be made to operate within our financial means.”
“In December, every library was closed on Thursdays for all-staff trainings. Beginning January 6, 2020, a new district-wide schedule begins,” Hart continued. “We are reducing weekday hours and expanding Saturday hours across the county. Although it is a reduction in total operating hours, we want to accommodate working people and students with additional access on Saturday.”
Hart explained that 2020 will be a year for constant evaluation and budget monitoring. “We are in a time of transition that requires continual assessment, including tracking trends in usage and gathering community input, as well as other criteria.”
In 2011, the library district’s annual budget was approximately $1.9 million. Revenue for the libraries has decreased each year for the past ten years, falling to approximately $1.3 million in 2018. Expenses, especially technology-related, are trending upward, making the current level of service unsustainable.
However, the necessary reduction in library operating hours does not impede library staff from aiming to provide the highest possible level of service to the community.
“One of our primary goals is to create a library culture that fosters learning and innovation,” Hart said. “This occurs both in and out of library buildings, through the physical resources and programs we offer, as well as online resources and community outreach.”
The library district, while maintaining five physical locations, also provides 24-hour access to an online library. “We often refer to it as the sixth library in Delta County,” said Hart.
Patrons can access books, audiobooks, movies, music, online classes, newspapers, magazines and research tools from anywhere, any time of the day, with a computer or device and internet connection. Additionally, 24-hour high-speed public internet is available near the five library buildings.
Hart goes on to explain that investing in staff is also a top priority. “Our libraries are only as successful as the team members who make it possible. Providing staff with opportunities for career growth is a key component in our planning. By investing in staff, we are investing in the future of library services in Delta County.”
In December, library staff participated in multiple training opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge. “Right now, we are focusing on program planning and online resources for staff development. It is important that we offer effective programs that are well-attended and meet the needs and interests of our communities. It is equally important that we provide a robust online library where staff can support patrons in taking full advantage of it.”
Community members who have questions, ideas, or concerns about the future of the libraries in Delta County are encouraged to attend a Library Board of Trustees meeting, email a trustee directly, submit an online form, or call the administrative office at 970-399-7876. A schedule of monthly board meetings, board and staff member contact information, and the online contact form can be found at deltalibraries.org.