Our library needs sustainable, stable and reliable funding

Main branch of the Boulder Public Library

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We all know that Pearl Street and the Flatirons are icons of our city. These spots serve as welcoming lodging for thousands of tourists each year, but for locals, the library is where you’ll find the heart of Boulder. It really is one of the perks of living in this city and the Makerspace BLDG61 in particular is really something special among all the offerings. However, falling sales tax revenues, jumping budgets, and staff cuts have limited the opportunities it can provide to the community.

When it opened in 2016, it was not clear to many what role a makerspace should/could play in a public library. Many questioned whether the library’s role was to provide vendor-based education. Thanks to the vision of the library director, his staff and the support of the Boulder Library Foundation, BLDG61 was launched and quickly became one of the most popular library resources. Now, just a few years later, cities across our state have followed suit. This hands-on training model has become a norm, and for many cities, Boulder has been the model to follow. This type of progressive programming requires sustained support. Unfortunately, flexing budgets and staff cuts have limited BLDG61’s uptime and growth.

When my husband and I moved to Boulder for CU jobs in 2015, I had few friends in Colorado. While school offered me a new community, it was difficult to find my place in the city. I describe myself as an apartment cat in a mountain dog town. Boulder was the third place I’ve moved to in less than 10 years. I wanted to put down roots, but it was difficult to find my people here. In February 2016, just before Makerspace opened, I met a librarian and we started talking about a project I was involved with in California called Sewing Rebellion. She asked me if I wanted to bring it to Boulder and host it in Makerspace. I said yes and before I knew it I had found my people.

The Colorado Sewing Rebellion was popular, attracting 20-50 participants each month from Spring 2016 through Fall 2019. With the help of library staff, I taught people to mend their clothes, follow patterns, design Halloween costumes, and cut clothes to their size. We created accessories from leftover street lamp banners, collaborated with community artists, and even hosted a popular workshop showing people how to put pockets in dresses and skirts. Like many of the programs BLDG61 offers, it has not returned since 2019 due to a decrease in budget, staff size and limited hours of operation.

As you’d expect, when you enter the Makerspace during opening hours (three days a week), you’ll see the 3D printers and laser cutters humming away. You’ll also see small business owners embroidering T-shirts, people mending their clothes, parents working with children on class projects, and employees teaching people how to use complex software. The staff at BLDG61 create a welcoming learning environment that I, as a professor at CU, model my own classrooms after. You can’t just put a laser cutter in a room with a manual and hope people figure it out. The staff must be made up of people who have a wide range of educational and technical skills. The library’s current dependence on sales tax has made long-standing programming, promotions for current staff, and creation of new positions significantly more difficult. A library district allows for long-term planning and a more stable place for people to build community, work, and learn.

Even without my deep connections to BLDG61, I would support the creation of a library district by voting yes to 6C. This is an opportunity for our city to invest in its future and those who will shape it. Voting yes to 6C will improve Boulder and support our creative, marginalized and enterprising neighbors. We cannot be a society that sees our city as just a place where we lay our heads, shop and eat. We are not a bed sharing community, we are not just a tourist destination. We are a city of innovation and creativity. As a community, we share a set of progressive values ​​that are reflected in the library, its programs, and its customers. Our library needs sustainable, stable and reliable funding, so please vote yes to 6C.

Steven Frost (they/they) is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at CU Boulder and faculty director of the B2 Center for Media, Arts, and Performance. Her research focuses on textiles, queer studies, pop culture and community development. They serve the Boulder Library Commission and the Library Foundation. Frost is a co-founder of the Experimental Weaving Residency, Slay the Runway, and Colorado Sewing Rebellion.

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Boulder Weekly.

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