BY Sara Martin
A ballot measure this year asks voters to increase the city’s public libraries’ funding, which could add services and decrease wait times.
The suggested property tax increase is focused on funding Denver Public Libraries’ (DPL) future resources and provided services. The measure, 2I, asks for voters to decide whether to increase Denver’s mill levy property tax rate by a total of $36 million in 2023 and would cost the average Denver homeowner $4.19 a month.
The funding would increase pay for staff, supply additional forms of media and books, and allow for an expansion of current branch hours.
“2I is about strengthening and sustaining the Denver Public Library, for this generation and future generations,”said Michelle Jeske, Denver’s city librarian. “It is a dedicated property tax increase to ensure that the library has resources it needs.”
On July 11, Jeske asked the Denver City Council to place the question on the November 2022 ballot to increase library funding in order to meet the demands of a growing and changing city. Jeske said that the needs of DPL are divided into three priorities: people, community, and spaces.
According to DPL’s studies, librarians and library staff members are currently making below average market wages. If passed, the measure would increase pay for their employees.
Most DPL branch libraries are currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Six branches are additionally open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Before the pandemic, all libraries were open a minimum of six days a week with a handful of branches open for seven.
One of DPL’s largest libraries, Central Library, located across from Civic Center Park, is operating on reduced hours due to renovations and budgeting reasons.
“Coming out of COVID, I think there is an exacerbation of the inequities in Denver that already existed, there’s certainly a lot bigger digital divide than there was even before the pandemic, which was already significant,” Jeske said. “We see a need to have more technology, more outreach, certainly more hours to serve kids that have had a lot of learning loss through the pandemic.”
If the ballot measure passes, people will see newer items available either online or in person, Jeske said, who also cited that wait times would be reduced. Library customers would also see improved technology such as checked-out laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots which could be used at home, outside of the libraries. Residents would also be able to observe refreshed buildings and better maintained properties.