2020 was a year like no other. Although we’re already two weeks into 2021, we wanted to share some of the ways the Boulder Library Foundation, with our incredible donors’ help, supported the library as it served and impacted our community in 2020.
As challenging and often uncertain as last year was, its effects were compounded by the restriction of key community resources like our libraries, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that programs were brought to a sudden halt, volunteers had to shelter in place, some of our beloved library workers were furloughed or laid off, and the Boulder Public Library had to, like so many other organizations, temporarily shut down. Yet, at the same time, new programs, digital formats, and special initiatives were dreamed up to meet our innate need for connection.
Through an annual grant to the library, the Foundation proudly funds 90% of all the library programs. In 2020, our support funded the virtual transition of many of our favorite library programs and the addition of new innovative offerings.
In a year where nonprofits like the Boulder Library Foundation expected to see a decrease in support, we knew that we’d need to reassess our overall fundraising goals to reflect the anticipated drop in annual donations. Instead, what we experienced was overwhelming generosity and kindness —
Here’s a look at our numbers and some of the financial impact we were able to make in 2020:
* Our Giving Season fundraising goal was $20K, and we surpassed our goal by a little over $31K.
* With the City budget under duress, many of our beloved library workers were furloughed, and some ultimately laid off in the second quarter of 2020. To provide immediate support due to the sudden loss of income, we launched the HALO (Help a Library worker Out) fund. The Foundation provided an initial contribution of $10K, with an additional matching contribution of up to $25K. This, coupled with our community’s incredible generosity, allowed us to raise a fund of over $52K. We offered financial assistance of up to $1000 to any library worker needing the additional support.
* Budgetary challenges also meant that key aspects of the new NoBo branch footprint would need to be removed or reduced to complete the project. The Foundation stepped in by committing $500K to preserve this space for key programs and services.
We needed to adapt and innovate our programs and support mechanisms to ensure that we continued empowering the library to meet our patrons’ ever-changing needs. With library facilities closed, hundreds of Boulderites were at risk of losing critical digital connection while sheltering in place. The Foundation funded the WiFi Hotspot Program, which provided 275 free mobile hotspots and data packages to anyone in need, from school-aged students to seniors. The program’s initial rollout was so successful that we received a series of grants to build on the program efforts. This allowed the hotspot team to provide an additional 140 hotspots, iPads, and Chromebooks to support over 1500 community members.
“When we thought we’d reached the end of our rope, things somehow got worse.” In many ways, this was the theme for 2020, and it was particularly true concerning the issue of racial equity in our country. With the increase in police brutality targeted at people of color, it was imperative for the Foundation and library to move forward with the launch of our headlining program, the inaugural One Book, One Boulder.
The incredible program’s team should be highly commended on their efforts and commitment to researching, learning, and implementing various new virtual platforms to offer program participants a seamless experience. For three months, 20 digital programs were offered, all focusing on race relations and racial equity. Providing a virtual offering extended these programs’ life span, which has now received over 4,750 views.
As this was the program’s inaugural year, the Foundation and library agreed that it would be vital to evaluate its impact among program participants. We worked with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science evaluation team to analyze quantitative and qualitative feedback about the program.
80% of program participants participated for personal growth reasons, and 76% rated their experience as either excellent or outstanding. Our goal was to bring Boulder together to Read, Engage, and Grow, and based on this feedback and other responses; we’re confident that One Book, One Boulder will continue to have a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of all who participated.
Here are some of our favorite quotes from community members:
“I just think that institutional support of One Book One Boulder was a powerful spark in igniting these conversations among a very white community that fashions itself as being liberal, but I don’t think on the whole is very literate on what it means to be white and seeing themselves in the story of race.”
“I feel almost addicted to truth-telling now.”
“I was given permission not to feel shame, but to educate myself and plan what I can do in the future to break down barriers.”
“I feel hope for the future because of all the young people who are going to make a difference in the world.”
“By participating in the One Book, One Boulder program I got to immediately dive into deep discussions about race, equity, and diversity with community members I had never met… Particularly during the isolating time of COVID, it was nice to have a way to connect with others in the community around such an important topic.”
To say that it was a challenging year would be an understatement at best, but we were reminded that we find strength in our community in times of crisis. Rather than retreating into isolation, we saw donors and friends like you step up to support, serve, and make an impact when our library and librarians needed it the most. In 2021, we are firmly committed to continuing our efforts to impact our community’s hearts and lives, and we look forward to you being a part of our story.