Cooperation today for a new library tomorrow
About two months ago, a measure to finance and build a new midvalley library suffered a sound defeat at the polls. The Aspen Times had endorsed the proposal, but acknowledged a number of strong arguments raised by the opponents. When the votes were counted, the opponents’ arguments carried the day ” but nobody disputed the basic need for a new, larger library.
And that’s why we were pleased to hear this week that the Basalt Regional Library District board is meeting with its election-season critics to craft a new proposal. After questions 4B and 4C failed, we encouraged these very parties to put their heads together, and we think they’re meeting a moral obligation by doing so. (They’ve already shown a degree of cooperation by raising money to temporarily prevent the library from closing on Mondays due to a budget shortage).
The library district originally crafted its proposal ” to build a new “main” library in El Jebel and to enlarge the existing structure in Basalt ” because it’s trying to serve 12,000 constituents in a mere 3,400 square feet. Everyone agrees more space is needed, especially in light of future population growth; the question is where to put it.
The sprawling district ranges from Ruedi Reservoir to the Blue Lake subdivision, and from Missouri Heights to Old Snowmass. Though the district is named for Basalt, its population center is gradually migrating west, toward El Jebel, Willits and Missouri Heights. The political trick for the district, and anyone who wants to see a new library built, is balancing the wishes of “old town” Basalt, where today’s library sits, with those of greater El Jebel.
Regional loyalties played a major role in the Nov. 4 results. El Jebel-area voters supported the library proposal by about a 90-vote margin, but Basaltines rejected the plan, 2-to-1.
The opposition group, Citizens for One Library, was composed mainly of Basalt residents. Though site selection wasn’t the thrust of their campaign ” they focused mainly on the size and cost of the district’s two-library plan ” most members of the group clearly preferred their “one library” in Basalt proper.
Politically, this is a tough nut to crack. We don’t know what the perfect solution is, but we’re certain that any viable plan must come from just this sort of grass-roots brainstorming.
We applaud both the district board and the Citizens for One Library for their willingness to set aside any leftover animosities and roll up their sleeves together. We hope they’ll stick with it long enough to close the book on this issue, once and for all.
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