Conifer Area Council is excited to announce that the Jeffco Library Board of Trustees has approved its staff recommendation to begin work on establishing an independent, stand-alone library for the Conifer community. The library staff will investigate suitable sites as well as coordinate with Conifer High School to ensure a smooth transition when the public library moves out of the school.
At its August meeting when the issue was discussed, both the library staff and Board of Trustees members complimented the Conifer community for its involvement in the process. Way to go, Conifer!!
The Jefferson County Public Library Board of Trustees voted to include $2.5 million in its 2023 budget for Conifer on June 16, 2022, and it was approved by the County Commissioners in December. To determine how these funds will be spent, the library began a comprehensive community engagement process. The first step of was interviewing 16 stakeholders and conducting a market analysis of the Conifer area.
Results were reported to the Library Board at its April 2023 meeting. See these reports on pages 57-77 at: https://jeffcolibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/46/2023/04/BoardReport_2304v3.pdf The Board of Trustees has not made a decision about whether the library will remain in Conifer High School or will relocate to a stand-alone location. One concern with the current location is that high school hours are changing in 2023, meaning the library wouldn’t be available to the public until about 4 pm on school days.
Conifer Area Council (CAC) has been actively working with the library staff and board to express our community’s needs and will continue its involvement. Over the past year, CAC has invited the library to make presentations at our town hall meetings and to distribute information through our email list. In addition, the library was invited to include questions in our 2022 Comprehensive Community Survey. CAC also invited the Board of Trustees and library executives to a guided tour of the area.
Conifer 2022 Library Survey Results – Download the PDF
Conifer Library History
While the Conifer Library was among the first of the local libraries to join the Jefferson County Public Library system, it has never had its own facility. According to 50 Stories for 50 Years, Stories and History of the Jefferson County Public Library 1952-2002 and from Jefferson County Public Library Facilities Master Plan February 2018, the Conifer Library joined JCPL in 1954 and in 1996 moved into the new Conifer High School. All other Jefferson County Libraries have been housed in buildings owned or rented by JCPL and most JCPL libraries have been or are currently being remodeled since their purchase.
Conifer residents have a long history of support of and desire for a public library. Over the years they have sought to keep the library active and available. The 2021 library survey shows that the community’s desire has not changed, with 93% of respondents in support of a stand-alone library in Conifer.
In 2011 the Conifer Library Committee reported that the budget for the Conifer Library was less than 1% of the JCPL budget. In 2020 it was 0.41%, despite the property tax revenue collected from Conifer being the same 4.5 mils that the rest of the county’s residents pay to support their libraries.
Decisions on budgeting partially rely on the daily count of the number of patrons visiting the library. However, the measure of the number of people at the Conifer library is distorted by the exclusion of the school-day gate count from the daily JCPL count. Students and school staff are JCPL patrons. They must have a JCPL card to check out materials and log into JCPL’s computers, website, and databases. They have all the rights and responsibilities of other patrons. Given that these are the only users allowed in the library during the school day, their numbers need to be included to give an accurate reflection of patronage.
Given the unique situation that JCPL has with sharing space in Conifer High School, additional concerns need to be considered. The safety of students prevents the community patrons from being able to visit during school hours. The current agreement between the library and school districts would leave the school with a diminished inventory if the public library were suddenly removed from the school.
CAC will continue to be a voice of our community to the Jefferson County Public Library and Conifer High School. We will work toward a solution that will benefit all parties including taking small interim steps to provide better access while pushing toward a facility that will allow the community the same access to a local library that the rest of Jefferson County has already.