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Basalt Library bursting with books, looking to expand

The Basalt Library is bursting with books.

Basalt Regional Library officials are pondering expansion of a facility they figure is already about three times smaller than demand warrants.

National planning criteria recommend that libraries have .9 square feet per person living in the district, according to Basalt Library Director Jean Winkler.

The Basalt district – which stretches from Old Snowmass to parts of Missouri Heights – has nearly 10,000 residents. So, national standards suggest a 9,000-square-foot library is needed just to handle today’s needs.

The existing library is 3,384 square feet. The currently facility was built in Basalt’s Lions Park in 1984 and expanded in 1990.

Winkler said library usage has ebbed and flowed through the decade since the last expansion, but is currently on a growth spurt. Statistics for May compared to the same month the previous year, show circulation of books and materials is up 11 percent, Internet use is up 300 percent and overall visits are up 32 percent.

With growth in the midvalley showing no sign of slowing, demands on the library are expected to increase. Population projections suggest the midvalley could double in population in the next two decades.

Winkler said the library could benefit from extra space in a variety of ways.

“What it will do for the public is give them a quiet space,” said Winkler. Although the children’s collection already enjoys “really good support,” the extra room would allow it to flourish, she said.

The existing library is essentially one room. Any activity going on at the front desk, for example, is likely to affect everyone in the building. The surging popularity of the Internet required the staff to find room for a few computer terminals in quarters that were already cramped.

Winkler said the library board of directors is exploring its options and hopes to hold a work session later this summer with the Basalt Town Council.

The Town Council holds the key to expansion at the current site because it owns Lions Park. Town Hall is also located on the property at the core of Basalt. Some town officials have said they need more space, too.

Town officials acknowledge they face a difficult time balancing the needs of growing public facilities with the desire avoid encroaching on the park.

“That’s going to be a tough one,” said Councilman Steve Solomon. “That park is owned by the whole community.”

Solomon recalled that building the library in the park angered some old-timers. Expanding farther into the park could also spark opposition.

He reluctantly said that adding floors to the library, and keeping the same footprint, is possible, but stressed he wants the town to explore all options with the library board.

Winkler said the library board feels it is important to “stay within the core of Basalt.”

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt said adding floors may be the best plan for the library, since retaining the park is important. “I don’t know what else we could do,” she said.

The library district would like start expanding within three to five years. Winkler said the district will likely approach voters for funding in a ballot question once a plan is adopted.


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