Barb Brattin, director, Wilkinson Public LIbrary


Editor’s note:  Year after year, the Library Journal Index of Public Library Services, a public library rating system, has designated Telluride’s Library a five-star institution. And it just earned its fifth star in a row, which puts The Wilkinson Public Library into an elite club of 30 libraries that have seen stars five years in a row and third in the nation among public libraries with annual budgets of $1 – 5 million, hence the name of library director Barb Brattin’s semi-regular column, “Five Stars.” But even the best of the best takes on the chin in hard times. Budget cuts have forced the Wilkinson to close on Sunday. Below its director explains, including the offsets.

Barb Brattin, director, Wilkinson Public LIbrary

Barb Brattin, director, Wilkinson Public LIbrary (and Finn)

If you want to find out how beloved your institution is, announce a change in service.

Fully 100 percent of those of you who responded with shock and dismay about the library closing on Sundays began with a heartfelt description of how much the Wilkinson Public Library means to you, what great service you get from the people who work here, and how the library has become a vital part of everyone’s life in the community. Your letters are a library director’s dream. They capture how truly special Telluride’s library really is. We are clearly doing things right.

When I came to Telluride seven years and eight budgets ago, I walked into a small community library with the funds and community support to “Go Big.” Immediately, I saw a potential for a readers’ advisory service and many, many more programs this educated and globally concerned community has since embraced. As property values in our service district grew, so did our budget and we were able to increase our offerings every year, receiving great applause from our taxpayers. We became the busiest library in Colorado per capita and the only resort library in Colorado to be awarded five stars from Library Journal based on per capita use.

I soon heard people describe their library as five stars to everyone they met. I was invited to join the Library Development Council at the state level to advise the State Library and to help rewrite public library standards, representing small and rural libraries across Colorado. Nationally, Wilkinson Public Library became regarded as small but mighty, presenting models of best practice to small and rural libraries across the country. In fact, we presented programs on how to do programs to 500+ librarians in New Orleans and Philadelphia. We began streaming programs to Portland and Green Bay and broadcast Books and Cooks to the world.

In 2012, we took the first cut to our budget on record, losing a full 12% of our property tax revenue. In 2013, our budget continues to decline. Projected loss in revenue for 2014 is another 10-15%. Losing a quarter of our budget is not something we can ignore. While we have managed to maintain all our services through the first round of budget cuts, 2014 is another matter. We need to prepare now.

In any great service organization, the majority of the budget is spent on people. Our staff is educated, committed and well trained. In return for their great service, we pay a living wage and give as many people full time work as the budget allows. As a result, you get a smiling, content employee who loves her job and is proud of her organization’s mission.

When faced with a loss of 25% of our budget, we have no choice but to look at reducing staff through attrition. In our service economy, that is possible. Many young people find new opportunities elsewhere and choose to leave us to pursue other dreams. And so, in response to a declining budget, we look to get as efficient as we can while maintaining the great service you have come to expect. The best way to accomplish that is to schedule a shrinking staff across fewer days. That’s why were closing the building on Sundays.

Luckily, a digitally connected world offers library services in different ways. Even though our doors won’t be open at 100 Pacific Avenue, you can still use the library without visiting a bricks and mortar site. Here’s how:

•    The library offers a self-serve vending machine at the Mountain Village Market which allows users to check out the latest DVDs and books with their library cards. That machine is available all hours the market is open.
•    Our databases are available 24/7 from the library’s website ( to assist in homework help for children and teens or just to satisfy your curiosity. Databases can help you research your family history, repair your car, or look up health information.
•    You may download audiobooks, ebooks and video from Overdrive, ebooks from Freading, or music from Freegal 24/7 with your library card from our website. This included books for Kindle and smartphones. Don’t have a Kindle? Borrow one from us preloaded with books!
•    You can still browse the catalog and place holds on items you’d like to pick up. We’ll set them aside on Monday and email you when they’re ready to pick up.

But wait, you say. It’s the community I find at the library that appeals to me most.  Thank you! We have clearly provided a warm and welcoming space for you to meet your friends and neighbors. Many people describe us as the Community Center. And that’s the reason you see so many kids here after school. Young people also find this building a delightful place to visit. We understand. So, we’ll be open 61 hours per week, just as we are now, except we’ll shift the five Sunday hours to Monday through Friday, opening at 9 a.m. For those of you dropping children at school, you can now join us a little earlier on school days. And for those of you starting work at 10, you’ll be able to grab a quick visit to the library before heading off to the office for the day.

I wish we could open our doors all day every day. But the fact is, our budget cuts are deep. Please know that this decision was very difficult, but very essential. We’ll do everything we can to restore Sunday hours moving forward. In the meantime, I hope you’ll continue to use your five-star library every chance you get. We’ll be waiting with a smile.

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