Officials, community consider library expansion in Snowmass Village |

Officials, community consider library expansion in Snowmass Village

Potential updates could create central location

The Pitkin County Library in Aspen.
Janet Urquhart/Aspen Times archives

Bookworms in Snowmass Village won’t find one central location in the town for Pitkin County Library services. 

Instead, there’s a pick-up at the Snowmass Recreation Center in Town Park, a dropbox at the Snowmass Center 2 miles up the road, a collection of “honor books” and a public computer and printer at Town Hall and a spot for story times at The Collective in Base Village. 

That could change, though, as Pitkin County Library representatives and Snowmass Village residents eye a possible expansion — and, in turn, a consolidation — of library services in the village. A few library officials met with the Snowmass Village Town Council at a regular council meeting Monday to talk through the concept; council members were largely receptive to the idea.

“It would be similar to what we have in Aspen, which is a very dynamic space,” assistant library director Genevieve Smith said. “The community’s needs are always changing, and the library is able to change with it.”

Ideally, the Snowmass facility would be at least 2,000 square feet with a preferred size in the 5,000 to 8,000 square feet ballpark, according to an April report from consultant James LaRue that was included in this week’s council packet. 

By comparison, the central Pitkin County Library in Aspen is 38,774 square feet; the “scaled back” size in Snowmass Village takes into account “limitations in space and staffing,” the report states.

The location could likely be in Town Park, since there are “significant interest (and many advantages)” in a shared facility with the Snowmass Recreation Center, the report states.

The idea for library expansion has been years in the making: Town Manager Clint Kinney said it emerged during the 2017 Town Council goal-setting process.

And in July 2021, Kinney sent a formal request to ask the library to budget for and fund a feasibility study for a Snowmass Village expansion. The town would be willing to consider contributing land at the Snowmass Recreation Center for a facility, Kinney wrote in the letter to library director Kathy Chandler.

The library funded the study, which took place earlier this year and included a meeting between the consultant and Chandler, two meetings with library staff (one included some board members too) and two public outreach sessions, according to LaRue’s report.

The general consensus is that there is a desire for a core of library services in Snowmass Village, as well as a desire for a community feel and for meeting spaces that are open to the public. 

Library Board of Trustees President John Wilkinson, who lives in Snowmass Village, told the council Tuesday night that the vision might look similar to the Mesa County branch library at the Fruita Recreation Center. Kinney worked on that initiative back when he was the town manager in Fruita.

The local expansion would be a joint project between the town of Snowmass Village, the Snowmass Recreation Center and the Pitkin County Library.

“We want to be able to have a place where the community can gather without having any problem of having to pay anything or be anywhere at any one time,” Wilkinson told the council. “This would be a free facility for all to use.” 

Library director Chandler emphasized the importance of accessibility at the meeting, too. 

“One thing about libraries is they really attempt to level the playing field for people — like people that have nothing can come in and use computers and get access to online forms to be able to apply for jobs and things,” Chandler said. “And I think that’s important, every place that you go.”

As for the cost of building the expansion, library officials haven’t pinpointed a hard number yet; Wilkinson also acknowledged that sky-high construction costs right now may pose a challenge.

LaRue’s report does include some estimates for a Snowmass Village library expansion. 

Based on a projected construction cost of $700 per square foot, a 2,000-square-foot space would cost about $1.4 million to build; on the larger (and pricier) end, a 8,000-square-foot facility would cost about $5.6 million to build. 

Those totals don’t include the cost of furniture, fixtures or equipment, which the report estimates would cost about 10% of the construction costs. 

According to the report, the Pitkin County Library has saved up about $4 million that could go toward construction. But the biggest expense, to the tune of about 60% of the library’s total annual spending, is staffing. 

“The key cost of libraries is not construction, it is operations,” the report states.

With “little capacity” to expand staffing in Snowmass Village to a level that would be on par with the Aspen location, the report suggests that sharing staff for supervision, public meetings, circulation and other library needs would be “essential.”

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