Basalt’s new library will be community hub | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s new library will be community hub

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BASALT – Basalt’s new $11 million library is going to be much more than a place where people grab a book and run.

The state-of-the-art facility is more like a community center that will have something for everyone at some time after it opens next month. Even with technicians roaming the interior to install computers this week, craftsmen adding final touches and staffers arranging pieces of the collection, the library was already an inviting place.

Comfy-looking chairs are tucked in nooks and crannies among the book shelves. Desks hug a 27-foot-high glass wall that overlooks a meadow with a ditch that ducks and even herons visit. Fake but realistic aspen tree trunks create a cool forest in one of four rooms dedicated to youth. Teens will have their own space, complete with a big-screen TV and a Wii.

A section is devoted to Spanish-language materials, and some of the crammed slate of programming will target Latinos.

The library, adjacent to the post office on Midland Avenue, opens Jan. 4. The grand opening celebration – with a parade from the old library to the new – will be Jan. 9.

It was tough to find a spot to get out of the way in the cramped old library in Lions Park. At 21,000 square feet, the new library offers refuge for solitude and coves of activity.

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“Mostly what I think this building offers is more public space,” said library Executive Director Kristen Becker.

A main conference room can accommodate up to 80 people for everything from book club discussions to Girl Scout meetings. A variety of smaller rooms will be available for nonprofit groups to use.

The library staff will schedule significantly more programs because there is more space. Regular activities will range from playtime with crafts and board games for toddlers to classic cinema showings for senior citizens.

The new facility will showcase the latest in information technology. There will be 12 computers reserved for adults, five for teens, four for younger children and two for toddlers. There will be 11 floating laptops that a person can check out and find space somewhere in the library. Also available will be three express stations for people who need to make a quick check of their e-mail. And special stations will be available to download audio books.

The collections area will handle more than 50,000 volumes, from books to music CDs. The interior space is filling a little more each day.

“I think we’re about 95 percent complete,” Becker said.

Fifteen members of the staff braved the blizzard and frigid temperatures of Dec. 7-8 to load their vehicles with kids’ books and relocate the collection to the new library. A professional book-moving company relocated most of the other materials, meticulously keeping the pieces in order through the process.

The number of people passing through the old library shot up in 2009, probably because of the recession, said Bud Eylar, president of the library district’s board of directors.

Nevertheless, library officials have known for years they couldn’t offer enough in their cramped quarters to draw a significant share of the midvalley population. Library officials sold a property tax increase for the $11 million facility with the promise to offer more. Eylar thinks they are ready to deliver.

“We will have a lot of activities that will get people in here,” he said. “I think what’s going to happen is when somebody comes to the library, we’re going to have them hooked.”

scondon@aspentimes.com