Moffat County Libraries pondering options to avoid closure
The Moffat County Libraries system will “drop dead” in six months, officials say, less than one year after the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners gutted 77 percent of the system’s funding.
But, the six-person Moffat County Libraries Board of Trustees are looking for ways to change course before the libraries officially have to turn off the lights for good.
“The board is being proactive to try to save the library system,” Library Director Sherry Sampson said.
In recent months, all three county libraries — Dinosaur, Maybell and Craig — made drastic cutbacks to library hours, staff and programming to stay afloat. A November 2018 ballot measure to fund the program through a mill levy tax increase was combined with an effort to provide additional funding for Museum of Northwest Colorado.
The average library in Colorado, in a similarly sized community, costs about $550,000 to operate annually, yet Moffat County is operating three libraries on about $200,000, Sampson said.
“We’ve cut back significantly to the point where there’s nothing left to cut,” said board member Jennifer Riley.
Moffat County commissioners could not be reached for comment Thursday about the financial matter.
Sampson oversees a staff of three full-time employees and six part-time employees, which also includes janitorial services for all three libraries.
“Sure we could’ve cut Dinosaur and Maybell, but when you look at those communities, that’s all they have, and they’re in the county and they pay taxes too, so we said, ‘No, we aren’t doing it,’” Riley said. “If we’re going to go down, it’s all together.”
As a last-ditch effort to save the libraries from closure, the board is weighing the option of bringing in a Maryland-based management company, Library Systems & Services, Inc., to streamline human resources, accounting, library cataloguing and to introduce fresh intriguing programs for Moffat County residents of all ages.
Immediately upon contracting with LS&S, board members said the Craig library would be able to stay open 30 hours versus the current 20-hour schedule. The management company would also be tasked with developing a plan to find the necessary revenue to keep the libraries open.
“One of the top concerns I hear and understand, is that (residents) think Craig is heading towards a recession or declining — however, you have less of a chance of improving your community if you lose vital resources,” Riley said. “It’s hard enough to recruit people to come to work in a rural community, but if you can say we have a library and a swimming pool, we have some of these things, then that’s palatable. But I want to take my kid to story time every week and I don’t want to have to drive to Steamboat.”
“This isn’t just us saying, ‘We don’t have any money,’” Riley said. “Our drop dead date is this November. After that, we will have to spend the next year decommissioning the buildings.”
LS&S company representatives will present a pitch to the county at the board’s upcoming meeting held at 570 Green Street at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 13. A special meeting will follow at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15.