Paul Paladino has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the kindest, smartest, and most humble people in Montrose (in fact, he’s probably blushing as he reads this.)
The soft-spoken librarian has spent the past quarter of a century as the executive director of the Montrose Regional Library District.
Paladino has a subtle, dry wit that can show up at unexpected times; for example, when the Monitor asked his age, he chuckled, “ Too old…and not old enough.” When pressed to reveal the actual number, he responded with mock uncertainty, “I’m 53…I think. Yeah, 53.”
Paul and Mary Paladino have been married for 29 years. They have one son, 19-year-old Dominic.
Mary, who is also a librarian, was partially responsible for Paul’s decision to go into that field. Paul had been working for the Boy Scouts, but did his paperwork at the library where his wife worked. “I was looking around the library, and I thought ‘This might be a nice place to work’. So, I looked into it, and decided to go back to library school and get a master’s degree. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Originally from Omaha, Neb., Paladino got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, in Ohio, and his master’s from Indiana University, in Bloomington, Ind.
Paul Paladino has been a librarian “a little over 26 years.”
The Monitor asked him how he ended up working in Montrose. “I was working in Michigan, but was looking around, and kept looking at the Colorado job line. I saw the Montrose job opening, so I applied for it.” And, he got it, more than 25 years ago.
Things have changed a lot in that time. “They have,” Paladino mused. “When I first moved to Montrose, the town pretty much ended at Niagara Road.” And, the Montrose library was located in the space now occupied by the police department. “It was a little over 7,000 square feet. The had a little children’s section that had two waist-high rows of children’s books; now, the children’s section is about the same size as the old library was.”
Paladino’s own job has undergone some changes over the years. “It’s become less and less involved with direct library work,” he explained. “I used to do a lot of the book ordering and public desk service. Now, I do more administration.
“When I started, there were five other people, besides myself, working in the library,” he continued. “Now we have 28. We’ve had as many as 42,” spread between the main library and branches in Naturita and Paradox.
Now, Paladino spends most of his time managing staff, finances, and compliance with rules, regulations, and laws that Colorado library districts must observe. “And, I spend more and more time getting the resources that my staff needs to do their jobs.”
We asked Paladino what he would most like the public to know about the Montrose Regional Library District that most probably don’t know. “There’s much more to the job than people see,” he said. “There’s a lot of planning and discussion behind the scenes. All of that takes time, and has to be done before you open the doors and let the customers in. It’s a lot like retail.” But one major difference between retail and the library is, “We take everything back, and we do it all over again. All of our stuff comes back, and we have to put it back on the shelves in the right place and in the right order. At the same time, we’re constantly ordering new things for people.”
Also, the library is a Special District, under state law. As such, Paladino answers to a seven person Board of Trustees, appointed by the Montrose Board of County Commissioners. However, the Library District receives no regular funding from the county, the municipalities it serves, or the state. By state law, special districts are allowed to receive property tax revenues, with voter approval, but can’t use any other kind of tax money. About 90 percent of the Montrose Regional Library District’s funding comes from its 3.0 mil property tax levy, with the remainder coming from grants and donations.
Voters turned down the district’s request for a mill levy increase of 0.8 percent in November of 2015. Consequently, the Montrose library was forced to make major cuts in its hours of operation, staff, and materials, i.e. books, CD’s, and DVD’s. The Board of Trustees is considering going to the voters again this November, but has not yet made a final decision.