New Pitkin County Library set to open Sunday in Aspen
After more than a year of renovation and the addition of about 7,000 more square feet, the Pitkin County Library is finally set to reopen at 2 p.m. today.
“We’re really excited,” said Jodi Smith, county facilities manager.
The approximately $14 million project — which was funded mainly through private donations after voters declined to approve a property tax hike in 2012 meant to fund the expansion — began last spring. The library temporarily moved to the former Aspen Art Museum building during the project.
Now the three floors have been completely redone and reorganized and are finally ready for Aspen’s bookworms to descend. However, this new library has a lot more than just books.
The main floor now features a huge children’s area, a larger teen area, a cafe where patrons can enjoy a cold drink and a lab with all kinds of different options for creative expression for adults and children.
Smith said she’s especially proud of the children’s area, which has been made more secure and a lot bigger. Highlights of the area include an amphitheater for storytelling and group activities with large windows that look out over the brand-new lawn at Galena Plaza, lighted cubby areas where kids can curl up with a book and, of course, lots of books on little shelves children can reach.
The teen area is at least twice as big as before, Smith said. It features a larger sitting area where people 19 and younger can powwow or work on group projects. It also has a computer lab and a television where teens can project video projects.
One of the coolest new additions is the Library Lab. Designed as an “experiential learning space,” the lab is meant to be a creative hub for the community, said Kelly Benninger, the library’s tech trainer.
The lab will offer arts-and-crafts supplies, a 3-D printer, a sewing machine, robots that can be controlled using iPads and four Apple Macintosh computers loaded with things like game-design software and Adobe Photoshop, Benninger said.
But hold on, there’s more. The lab also features an audio booth with a guitar, a keyboard and recording software. Then there’s the digital art and media room, which features cameras, editing equipment, lighting kits and computers with software for web design, Benninger said.
“It’s all about creativity and collaboration,” she said. “We want people to make artistic connections in the community. It’s a place to make.”
Designers also have lowered the height of the bookshelves throughout the library, opening up the space and revealing windows that previously were blocked by the stacks, Smith said.
Upstairs, that change is especially noticeable, she said, partially because designers have created lots of sitting areas near the windows with comfy chairs and couches.
“Everybody keeps asking, ‘Were these windows here before?’” Smith said.
The floor area upstairs was expanded, while the new addition portion of the upstairs features a rooftop deck that looks out over Galena Plaza with a view of Smuggler Mountain.
The library’s basement also has been opened up, Smith said, because designers eliminated numerous small, private spaces.
“The whole idea is to get people to the windows,” she said.
The main portion of the addition features a large community room that will be available for residents to schedule events, Smith said. The room features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Galena Plaza and Smuggler Mountain.
Pitkin County commissioners also will meet in the room while the county renovates and constructs a new building on Main Street. The new space also has bathrooms and a kitchen space and can be used when the library is closed because of a locking door between the two areas.
The new library also features a meeting room on each level with high-tech features. In addition, the building is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is energy-efficient, as well, Smith said.
The grand-opening celebration will take place at 2 p.m. today and features a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Smith said.
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