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Basalt’s new library doubles its business

www.a4arc.comIn the year since the new Basalt Regional Library opened, its circulation has doubled and it has issued more than 10,000 cards to new members.
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BASALT – Basalt’s experience shows that libraries are anything but obsolete in the Internet Age.

In the year since the town’s new library opened, it has more than doubled the number of books, DVDs, CDs and other circulation materials that it checked out to patrons compared to the year before, according to the 2010 annual report. The circulation count went from 85,693 in 2009 to 178,978 last year.

The “gate count” of people entering the facility soared 85 percent over that same period, the report showed. The number of people visiting the library climbed from 96,275 in 2009 to 178,710 last year.



The library has issued more than 10,000 library cards to new members since Jan. 4, 2010. It now has about 20,000 patrons, or about 7,500 more than the estimated population of the library district, said Kristen Becker, executive director of the Basalt Regional Library. “We’re drawing from the entire valley,” she said.

Numbers alone don’t capture the library’s first-year success, Becker said. She points to a wide range of community events that have attracted Roaring Fork Valley residents since the opening day.




“I believe the library is more of a community center,” she said.

The activities are diverse. A staff member is available through a Hispanic outreach program for consultations on the resources available at the library. Local writers and photographers have presented their work in the community room. Music series performances have featured classical and jazz bands. The Basalt Heritage Society has hosted presentations on local history in the library’s community room.

Most of the big events are held in a community room that holds audiences of up to 84. There is also a conference room for 12 that can be reserved by community groups.

Becker said the staff initially planned to host as many events as possible, but now is concentrating on fewer events of high quality. Upcoming programs include a performance by the Tesla Quartet, which the musicians formed at The Julliard School in 2008. They played at Harris Hall during the 2010 Aspen Music Festival. Their Basalt performance is Friday, Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m.

The Colorado Poet Laureate, David Mason, will read some of his works on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. Mason is co-director of the creative writing program at Colorado College. He was appointed by former Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter. Mason is the state’s seventh poet laureate, a program that honors great poets in the state and promotes appreciation of poetry.

Multiple activities are regularly held for kids, from Wii Wednesday video games after school to regular story times and Spectacular Science projects once a month.

Becker knew the library district was building a facility that would draw people in and she was proud of the programs and events her staff prepared over year one. But one aspect of the first-year success caught her off guard.

“I think what surprised me the most is the number of youth,” she said. There are 30 to 50 kids at the library any given day after school engaging in various activities. At the old library, there were typically eight to 10 kids waiting to get on computers.

The new library is by the Basalt post office. The old library was in Lions Park, next to town hall.

A little less than one-third of the library’s 20,000 square feet is devoted to youth services. The eye-catching feature is a forest of beetle-kill lodge pole pine and spruce trunks. It’s a magnet for kids to gather for special programs and reading.

The forest was aspen logs when the library first opened. “They were put in pretty green and they were leaking black sap,” Becker said.

The youth area also features a Hispanic collection as well as six computers for children and five computers reserved for young adults.

In the adult section, there are 15 public Internet access computers, two stations for downloading audio or e-books and two desktop publishing computers. Ten lap tops can be checked out for use within the library.

One of the more popular features of the library is the northwest corner where couches and chairs are clustered around a fireplace. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide fantastic views of the Roaring Fork River corridor as well as the cliff face of Basalt Mountain.

Despite the successful first year, there is a cloud on the library’s horizon, Becker said. Eagle County officials are warning taxing district to be prepared for a 30 to 35 percent drop in revenues next year. New property valuations released on May 1 will reflect the real estate collapse. That will affect the amount of taxes collected starting in 2012.

Becker and the library board didn’t want to make drastic cuts to the budget all at once, so they started tightening the belt this year. “We’re trying to be proactive,” Becker said.

Hours were reduced by adjusting the closing time to 7 p.m. from 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Sunday hours were eliminated. Three staff members were laid off at the end of September.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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