What’s next for the Pitkin County Library? | AspenTimes.com

What’s next for the Pitkin County Library?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The future of the Pitkin County Library isn’t just about books – or is it?

The library will host a pair of community meetings on Thursday to discuss the facility’s future.

The goal, said Librarian Kathy Chandler, is to find out what the public wants from its library as its directors embark on the crafting of a new master plan – a vision of its future for the next decade or two. Chandler is hoping citizens, members of the business and cultural communities, nonprofit representatives, educators and civic leaders will all provide their input. The sessions will take place at the library from noon to 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Consultant Susan Kent, former director of the Los Angeles Public Library and chief executive of branch libraries for the New York Public Library System, is helping the local library board draft a master plan and will facilitate Thursday’s sessions.

The library, built in 1991, has room to expand physically – it has an easement that extends 40 feet into the vacant plaza next to it, over the top of the Rio Grande Parking Garage.

Work on the roof of the garage is planned next year; if the library is going to expand anytime soon, putting the support structure in place at the same time the garage project is under way may make sense, Chandler said.

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“If it [expansion] is 10 or 15 years out, it really wouldn’t make sense to do that,” she said.

The existing library, on the edge of downtown Aspen, is currently utilizing all of its 30,000 square feet after expanding into its mezzanine and remodeling several basement rooms nearly a decade ago.

Additional space needs depend on what the public wants from the facility, Chandler said.

“We want to focus on in these meetings is what the library should be doing,” she said.

For example, other libraries have a number of small meeting rooms available for group use, while the Pitkin County Library offers just one large meeting room.

One user suggested the library needs a business center – a place where users can use computers and talk on their cell phones, Chandler said. Currently, patrons are asked to step outside to take a phone call.

“We also need to take a look at the collection and say, well, should some of these areas be smaller?” Chandler said. “We know we’re in Aspen, Colorado, and we can’t get ever and ever larger.”

The staff already culls books from the shelves, and the library is not yet at a point where every new volume added to the collection means something has to go, but some sections will reach that point eventually, Chandler said.

The feedback the library collects Thursday will be incorporated into a planning process that the library board expects to complete this fall.

janet@aspentimes.com

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