Pitkin County Library unveils latest renovation plans

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The Pitkin County Library is moving forward with its renovation plans and hopes to begin construction later this year.

Library officials submitted their land-use application to the city of Aspen on Monday with expectations to see it approved within 60 days. The goal is to break ground in September to begin work on the children’s library section of the project.

The biggest challenge facing the renovation is funding, as the library doesn’t have the full amount needed to complete the project. Currently, the library has $5.5 million of the anticipated $8.5 million needed. According to John Wilkinson, president of the library board, the library will seek private funding and grants to garner the rest of the money.

The design goals included the creation of a new, secure children’s area; provide flexible meeting room spaces; expand the teen area; maximize lighting and views; update technology for the public and increase sustainability and energy efficiency.

Library construction won’t begin until the city finishes work in the alley on the south side of the library. That work should begin in August. The city plans to improve the grade in the alley and lower the utilities.

“I can’t say enough about how the city of Aspen Assets Department has been working with us,” said Jodi Smith, the county facilities superintendent. “Our two teams have really come together. We’re sharing a lot of information and timing things to use resources together.”

Architect Pam Hopkins, from Vail-based Snowden & Hopkins Architects, presented a look at the new design at the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners work session on Tuesday.

In the current plan, the main floor becomes the central community space.

The new main floor of the library will have a 6,000-square-foot expansion to the east, connecting to Galena Plaza. The children’s room becomes the prominent area on the main floor. The children’s room will open onto a sunken outdoor amphitheater, to facilitate both indoor and outdoor programming.

The new main floor also will host the library’s media and music collections, computer stations, three new collaboration rooms, some staff offices and community lounge areas.

The expanded mezzanine will host the Spanish center, the fiction collection, reading lounges, two collaboration spaces and a study area. The mezzanine will access a new rooftop deck connected to a green roof above the children’s program area. This deck overlooks Galena Plaza and better connects the patrons to the site.

The main staff offices will be shifted to this lower level, providing them with better work spaces.

The remainder of the lower level will host the non-fiction collection, a reading lounge that leads to an outdoor garden and patio, a collaboration room, a makers room and a specially designed teen room with the library’s young-adult collection.

The library will host two open houses at noon and 5 p.m. on April 24 where the public can offer their input on the current design.

“Our plans are still in flux,” said county librarian Kathleen Chandler. “We want the public to be able to add their thoughts to the mix.”

The design plans currently calls for the addition of nearly 7,000 square feet of building space. If the work goes as planned, library officials hope to see the renovation completed by the end of 2015.