Commissioner candidates share their opinions on library plan |

Commissioner candidates share their opinions on library plan

The plan to expand the Pitkin County Library is the focus of today’s final installment in a series of candidate responses to questions posed by The Aspen Times. The four candidates are seeking election to the District 4 county commissioner seat.

The commissioner hopefuls will face off in the June 26 primary election. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election ballot.

Today’s question: “Do you support plans to expand the Pitkin County Library, and why or why not?”

The responses:

“Yes, I support the expansion of the library if it can be done in a way to not add to its carbon footprint from heating and cooling the building.

“The expansion would make all of the areas of the library more functional and eliminate most or all of the deficiencies of the current library. We would have a state-of-the-art library, which would be a wonderful amenity to have for both our residents and visitors.

“I am concerned about the trend to build larger and larger public buildings because of their potential effect on our efforts to combat global climate change. It is possible to build a large building, such as the 200,000-square-foot (National Renewable Energy Lab) building in Golden, which is carbon-neutral over the course of a year. The library should be designed in such a way as to minimize the need for extra heating and cooling and to take advantage of ground heat, solar and other sources of renewable energy.”

“Now is the time to renovate and expand our county library. I was recently given a briefing and tour of the facility by staff to better understand their plan.

“The expansion includes facilities and programs for children and teens, improved community-group access and connectivity to the Galena Plaza amenities. Renovation and reconfiguration of their collections will improve safety and address (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance. Technology upgrades include digital collections, computer work areas and wireless hot-spot access, all this accomplished while keeping the library’s character and style.

“Given the current work planned for the Galena Plaza and underground parking, as well as the North Mill Street upgrades, considerable money may be saved by doing this project in concert with those efforts.

“Our star library is our county’s highest-ranked quality-of-service asset. Let’s make it even better.”

Absolutely I support it! Having been part of the planning for over four years as a library board trustee, I understand the needs of the community and how important the library is to Aspen.

One of the major roles of a public library is to provide the first experience children have with reading and resources. The children’s area is going to have its own secure entrance and rooms for their reading programs.

There has been a huge demand for meeting rooms for study groups, reading programs and tutoring. There will be several new large rooms that can be used after normal library hours.

The library is the No. 1 visited public building in Aspen. The project will include outdoor reading spaces and performance areas for local theater productions. This will enliven the Galena Plaza area, which has been a goal for the City of Aspen for a long time.

The library provides so many free services for our county such as downloadable books, ebooks and many other online resources. The reconfiguration of the library will be even more of an asset to the county.

By way of disclosure, I do not live in the library district (in Old Snowmass we are in the Basalt Library District) and do not feel totally comfortable with answering a question that would not directly affect me. I will answer it this way:

Libraries are a source of good in every community that has one. The joy of seeing a child’s eyes light up when they discover the gift of reading is tremendous. I have reviewed the plans with Kathy Chandler and think it is a well-conceived plan. The fact that over half of the money necessary has been raised by donation is great; I only wish the rest could be raised that way as well.

With interest rates so low, and construction costs low as well, the timing could be at the most optimum period. If they were to wait for the rest of the money to be raised through donations, the costs could rise faster than the money coming in, possibly setting up an unachievable goal. With my house being valued at $600,000, (as it is), I would gladly pay the $7 per year to see this happen.

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