When I was a child, I loved to read. I traveled with Nellie Bly, learned courage from Booker T. Washington and solved mysteries with Nancy Drew. I rode my bike to the library and spent hours there.
Our library was a “Carnegie” library, one of 2,509 libraries worldwide funded by Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy. Carnegie, a self-made businessman and one of the wealthiest 19th-century Americans, was born in Scotland. At age 13 he moved to America. As a young boy, working long hours, earning $1.20 a week, he had no access to education. A retired merchant, Colonel Anderson, started a small library of 400 books with his personal collection. On Saturday afternoons, Anderson lent books to local children. This is how Carnegie educated himself.
Carnegie believed that building libraries was the most productive use of his wealth. He wanted to provide opportunity to young people who “who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it.” Carnegie believed that libraries added to the meritocratic nature of America … anyone with the desire to learn could educate themselves and be successful like he had been.
While Carnegie’s story exemplifies the value of local libraries for the soul, here are some pragmatic points that you should consider.
First, a walkable library creates intrinsic value for a community. You need look no further than the numbers to understand “vintage” Lone Tree’s value of our library. According to the Douglas County Library Building Development Plan, annual circulation of Lone Tree’s 10,000-square-foot library is 800,000. Comparatively, Highlands Ranch’s library is 42,000 square feet with an annual circulation of 1.7 million. In order to achieve that same ROI (return on investment), Highlands Ranch would need to have circulation numbers in the range of 3.36 million a 97 percent increase. Why change something that is working well?
The director of operations of one of our premier preschools confirmed their little ones walk to the library at least twice a week during the summer. She said walking trips would no longer be organized if they have to cross Lincoln. Bottom line, these young children will no longer have access to a local, community library.
A successful local real-estate broker confirmed that buyers value walkable, community parks, schools and libraries. When asked if buyers value a community center as much as a library, his response was “no.” At the end of the day, a local, community library adds value to your property.
Keeping the Lone Tree Library and building a library in RidgeGate are not mutually exclusive. We can do both, and as a taxpayer it should not cost you any additional money.
• According to the Douglas County assessor’s website, the library receives 4.07 mills on all taxable property in Douglas County, which raised $18.5 million for libraries last year.
• RidgeGate’s new development increases Douglas County’s taxable assessed valuation, significantly growing tax revenue without a cost to current residents. This creates an automatic raise for schools, libraries, roads and bridges.
• Currently 3.8 percent of Douglas County residents live in Lone Tree, while Lone Tree accounts for 9.85 percent of the county’s assessed valuation. Continued growth in assessed valuation will contribute to maintaining the quality of life throughout all of our communities.
New development plus the generous donation of land by RidgeGate’s developer certainly warrants a library in RidgeGate. But not at the expense of other residents.
Closing Lone Tree’s library and opening a community center is not a net zero for you as a resident. It will cost you money. The number bantered around is $1.5 million. Currently, the mills you pay to the library district, pay for your library services. If the city buys the building, the funds come directly from our budget. Additionally, the cost of maintaining and staffing the building will become an ongoing expense of our city.
If you value your local, walkable library, here are your action steps.
• Email your elected city government representatives.
• Attend the city council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Civic Center, 8527 Lone Tree Parkway, voicing your support for both the “vintage” Lone Tree library and a library in RidgeGate.
• Lastly, encourage your neighbors, friends and family to take action as well.
Kim Monson is the city councilwoman representing Lone Tree’s District 2.