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Users love library, want more

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Strategic planning continues

By Nicolette Toussaint

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Bonedalians love their library, but they would love it even more if it had a fireplace. Or a coffee bar. Or both!

These were among the ideas tossed out last week at a planning meeting held for the Carbondale Branch Library.

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Among the 48 people who attended the library’s brainstorming session were Joanie Anderson, her husband, and two daughters. “We came because we’re big users of the library,” she told The Sopris Sun. “My girls come looking for books and I’m in a ukulele group, so I’m here every first and third Monday. They do so many great programs here.”

After eight roundtable groups engaged in discussion and displayed their ideas on the wall, it turned out that many of the wished-for programs already existed. Library manager Mollie Honan noted that the library offers about 30 different programs for kids, along with adult programs that range from computer basics to research services. Apparently, many patrons don’t know about those programs.

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Among the most often suggestions offered by the Carbondale participants were:

• Longer hours, including Sundays;

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• A soundproofed area for kids;

• Outdoor plugs for laptops and umbrellas

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on the patio;

• Fireside chats and do-it-yourself workshops to go along with a fireplace and coffee bar;

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• Community forums and panels on issues like fracking, immigration and water conservation;

• Concerts, in collaboration with the Aspen Music School and Festival and other groups;

• More Spanish language programming.

“I love the Carbondale Library, and it’s my secret hideaway on Saturdays, so I wanted to contribute to the visioning process,” said Amy Barr. “I was especially gratified to see entire Hispanic families joining in. But I was shocked to hear that their friends are afraid to come to the library, and to learn that some people don’t realize that services are free. Some of the comments were real eye openers.”

Eloisa Duarte, a seven year Carbondale resident, joined three other adults and four children at a table of Spanish speakers. All of them wanted their community to become more involved. “We think the library is amazing, and we want Latinos to develop a love of education and learning,” said Duarte. “We came to this event to be part of decisions of the services of the library, to be part of the community.”

The Carbondale session was the last of six meetings, one held at each Garfield County library. More 200 participants attended the meetings, which are in turn part of a larger data collection and planning process that also includes a survey. The process, like a planning process done in 2007-2008, is run by professional consultants, but this year has received quite a different response. Garfield County Libraries Executive Director Amelia Shelley noted that the 2007-2008 meetings were “scarcely attended” and enthused, “This is a great turnout.”

The smallest of the meetings was in Silt, which drew 11 participants. Carbondale’s attendance was the second largest after Glenwood’s meeting, which drew 55 people. Those numbers reflect resurgence in the county libraries’ popularity that is paralleled by library card usage: In 2005, the Garfield County Libraries counted 6,600 active library cards; this year, the number is 45,000.

Participants at the Carbondale session, which was facilitated by Angie Davlyn of JVA Consulting, expressed enthusiasm for the Carbondale Branch Library, which opened in a new building in July of 2013 after moving from its previous location about one block away. Patrons said they like the library’s window seats, art, wifi, children’s programs, easy ordering of books via the library’s website and excellent inter-library loans. The participants, who ranged from preschoolers to octogenarians, came up with dozens of new ideas for enhancing physical facilities and extending programming.

Shelley said, “There are great ideas here, and now we need to sort through them to see what’s feasible.”

JVA Consulting, which specializes in social change work, will do some of that sorting. JVA is headquartered in Denver and has a Western Colorado office in the Third Street Center. After analyzing the community meeting and survey data, JVA will present a report and a communications and marketing plan to library management at the end of October.

As of press time, JVA has also collected over 986 surveys. The survey will be available through Sept. 4 at surveymonkey.com/s/gcpld2014 in English and es.surveymonkey.com/s/gcpld2014espanol.

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