A development worth backing | AspenTimes.com

A development worth backing

Paul Andersen

Given the boom town growth of Basalt, El Jebel and the rest of the midvalley, where urban life is fast blotting out rural ambiance, something good needs to happen. The dark cloud of incessant construction needs the silver lining of vital, long-term amenities.In the wake of traffic jams, sprawl and people pressure, we need development whose value is marked, not in outlandish profits, but in community values and the richest gifts of mankind. If we’re going to see the rise of a cityscape, we ought to benefit from the kind of culture on which cities pride themselves.I’m not talking about more multiplex movie theatres, Bacchanalian bistros, big-name chain stores or expansive shopping malls. Those things are a dime a dozen, and do little to elevate a community in anything other than base materialism.At the top of my list for the newly urbanized Roaring Fork Valley is the proposed new library for Basalt. I hereby stifle my knee-jerk condemnation of the cancerous spread of condos, lofts, spec homes and countless square feet of commercial excess, and give full endorsement to the only development option I can truly support – the new library.My viewpoint is not altogether altruistic because I love libraries for what they give me. I’ve spent a lot of time in libraries because they enrich my desire to learn. They open doors I would never otherwise open. They expand my view of the ever-changing world.As libraries go, the Basalt branch is sorely in need of expansion. The building feels more like a clubhouse than a seat of higher learning and repository of state-of-the-art information. It is tight, busy and hectic. It is jammed with men, women and children, and its bookshelves are overflowing.This is the good news, because it casts a positive light on Basalt. An empty library is reflective of an empty community, at least where learning is concerned. The fact that the Basalt library is about to burst is a sign that our community has a great variety of interests, many of which are focused on reading and information.”The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means of Education,” cautioned Emerson. Libraries provide us with the kind of self-directed education to which scholars pay the highest heed. They are safe havens for learning. They are idea-rich candy stores for any open, inquiring mind with an appetite for perspective.Even if you never read books, libraries are important because they nurture the intellectual health of a community and provide it with an independent will. Libraries are also vital meeting places where people gather in quiet, perhaps for one of the rare, quiet moments of their otherwise busy days.The modern libraries of today go way beyond books into electronic media and shared resources available through instantaneous search engines. If it’s not on the shelves, it’s in the deepest recesses of cyberspace. Libraries are not only conduits to the past, to history; they are about what is happening now.I go to libraries mostly for the books, which are alluring invitations to an enormous spectrum of ideas, experiences, philosophies, histories, biographies and fictions. Browsing titles on a library shelf reveals the wealth of the human experience and the scope of human expression. Open a book and you open yourself to another mind.A sage once wrote: “Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book!, a message to us from human souls we never saw. And yet these arouse us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.”Open yourself and your community to souls you never saw, to hearts that can become brothers. Vote yes on the new Basalt library by marking your ballot on 4A and 4B.Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.