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Construction in full swing on Pitkin County Library addition, renovation

Oct 21, 2015

Two Pitkin County commissioners toured the library in Aspen Wednesday. It's under construction and will open back up to the public in June 2016.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Heavy machinery and construction workers have replaced books and patrons at the Pitkin County Library. County elected leaders toured the work site Wednesday (10/21). They agreed in August to help pay for the project. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Project manager Jodi Smith hands out hard hats to a small group at the Pitkin County Library. Two county commissioners, a few county staff and construction workers are along for this tour.

Once inside, commissioner Patti Clapper walks across the main floor. It feels bigger without desks and shelves.

"It’s amazing to see a library without books!"

The main floor of the library seems expansive without bookshelves. Additional square feet of floor space has been added to the second floor.

Just beyond the main floor is a new addition that will house a children’s area with a rooftop patio and a community room.

"So when you come in here, there will be big double doors that are glass that open to the outside," says Smith. "Or, if there’s a reception or some kind of meeting, we can have it indoors and outdoors.”

This area plus a remodeled interior total about 7000 square feet of new space.

The overhaul was prompted by a need to make the facility ADA compliant and the children’s area more secure. The update also includes small group meeting rooms, energy upgrades and digital media labs. Kathy Chandler is head librarian.

"(We’re) just making the library so that it looks like what people expect when they come into the library at this time, in 2015."

Project manager Jodi Smith motions toward a new children's area that's an addition to the existing library.

In 2012 voters turned down a measure that would have used property taxes to fund the project. So, the plan was scaled down to just the addition. But donations came in, allowing the library to also renovate the existing building. The total cost of the project, including design and construction, is $14.3 million. $1 million of that is a loan from the county.

"I think there’s a lot of people who believe in the good that a public library does for people," says Chandler. "In this community, with the location that the building’s in, it can really add to the vibrancy of the community.”

After an hour, the tour wraps up and construction workers flood back into the building after lunch. Commissioner Steve Child says he likes what he sees.

"The light in the upstairs parts - the natural light will keep that whole area lit. The views out the windows and the opportunities to go outside, are all really impressive.”

Construction is scheduled to wrap up in April, with the renovated library opening to the public in June.