Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Librarians are mostly humble and unassuming people. I suppose it’s to be expected that those who love books and spend their lives protecting them and fostering the love of them in other people – many of whom are perfect strangers – gain perspective and become introspective. Or, maybe they are born this way and the library is where they find work meaningful. I’m not sure it matters.

I can’t believe that only one short week ago I was certain that there was no way in hell I would support the library expansion, even if they threatened to stoke its fires with books overflowing off its crowded shelves with me tied to a stake in the middle of the inferno and a third-year college teaching assistant reciting “Ulysses” to me, sprinkling in personal interpretation between cracks from the towering flames. In fact, I resorted to the most desperate act to prevent it. I lent my name to the opponents of the library expansion to use in a political ad in exchange for their promise to quit bothering me to speak out against the measure in a public forum. It was a deal with the devil.

So what made me come to my senses? Fiscal and social responsibility, of all things. The librarians already have raised $5 million privately toward the cost of the small expansion. It’s going to cost another $5.4 million to finish, and they probably would have raised that themselves over time, but since the city is re-doing the parking garage anyway, which the library expansion ties into, the architects told them it would save a bundle to go ahead with the project now rather than wait and have to tear up the new work the city is going to do regardless. They are leveraging their cash and reducing their costs. That’s not book knowledge – it’s street smarts!

And here’s another thing I learned: Librarians like the plaza over there as much as anyone else does – maybe more because they consider it an extension of the library. The plaza isn’t going away with this project. It’s being integrated into the library with huge view windows and covered outdoor reading and relaxing areas. In fact, with the parking-garage project, the city is expanding the size of the plaza. The library expansion will take up a little bit of open space, but the net loss of park is only about 400 square feet. The library expansion will open up that space for enjoyment by a lot more people.

Then there is the issue of size and scale. The last thing we need in this town is another monstrous building. Our library already is a monstrous building. The new addition is going to look like a nice paint job on it. I reviewed the plans and the drawings with the librarians. The new addition is tucked behind existing buildings along Main Street, and it is lower than all of them. Perched back, above the parking garage, the expansion will hardly be visible from Rio Grande Park.

I came to realize that the library brings the one thing to this town that many want most of all: a sense of community! Most public buildings we visit because we are summoned, arrested or arraigned, got a parking ticket, have to pay some kind of tax or are agitated with our elected officials and need to yell at them in a public meeting. The library invites us to come together for pleasure and personal betterment. It is for the young and old, the rich and poor, the fit and fat, the Jews and the gentiles. It offers something for every single resident and visitor.

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Compare the $5.4 million the library is asking for with the $17 million we spent for the Droste property, which provides trails for a few hundred die-hard mountain bikers and pet-less hikers, the $19 million we spent on the lumber yard for we don’t know what or even the $10 million we are contemplating for the hydroelectric plant that will barely produce enough electricity to light up the “Welcome to Asgreen” sign we will eventually erect on the outskirts of town.

I believe that you can distinguish a great town by the number of churches it has, the volunteer fire department in its center, schools where someone cares enough to keep the goalposts straight and a library that is an obvious point of pride. I feel bad for not seeing this from the beginning. Please excuse me for changing my mind, and then go vote “yes” for the library expansion.

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